Is Depression Different in Males and Females?

Understanding the Subtle Differences

Man and woman's hands reaching towards each other. PM Images/ GettyImages

Men and women share the same core set of depression symptoms: depressed mood, lack of motivation, loss of pleasure in activities and hobbies, changes in appetite, sleep disturbances, feelings of guilt and difficulty concentrating. However, studies suggest that there are some differences in the symptom patterns exhibited by men and women.

Differences In How Depression Manifests Itself in Males and Females

One study, which looked at how sadness is expressed in men and women, found that women more often showed visible signs of emotion, such as crying, while men tended to be more rigid and show less emotion.

Another study, which examined gender differences in symptoms believed to be more prevalent in men, such as irritability and anger, found that about three quarters of the 151 depressed patients sampled suffered from increased irritability, but there were no significant differences between men and women in how frequently they experienced irritability. However, the men suffered about twice as often as the women from anger attacks, which were defined as episodes of intense, inappropriate anger. In addition, the frequency of these attacks was about three times higher in men.

One other notable way in which men's and women's symptoms differ is that women are more likely than men to exhibit the atypical symptoms of depression, like sleeping excessively and overeating, in contrast to the typical symptoms, such as insomnia and loss of appetite.

Other Signs of Depression in Men

Men show other signs of depression that may differ from women.

These include:

  • Abusing alcohol or other substances
  • Escaping by staying at work late, playing a lot of video games or spending a lot more time working out or playing sports
  • Risk-taking, like driving recklessly or while drinking
  • Being irritable or frequently exploding in anger
  • Becoming controlling, violent or abusive

    Causes of Depression in Women

    Women are almost twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with depression. One reason for this could be because of the hormonal changes that women experience from puberty onward. Potential causes for depression in women that are specific to being female are:

    • Puberty
    • Premenstrual difficulties
    • Pregnancy
    • Postpartum depression
    • Perimenopause and/or menopause
    • Circumstances in life and cultural stressors
    • Having another condition that occurs with depression, such as anxiety, substance abuse or an eating disorder

    Why the Differences Between Males and Females?

    Presumably, these differences occur because traditional gender roles allow women to communicate their feelings and ask for assistance, while men are expected to be strong and not need help. When men do not allow themselves to express their feelings freely, these feelings may bubble to the surface in other forms, such as anger attacks.

    Treatment for Depression

    Whether you are male or female, the treatment for depression is the same: psychotherapy, medication, or a combination of the two.

    It may take some time to develop the right treatment plan to fit your individual needs, so try to be patient as you and your mental health professional figure out what works best for you.

    Also, keep in mind that many side effects of medications go away within the first two weeks of taking them. However, if side effects are intolerable, be sure to let your mental health professional know. 

    Sources:

    Gorman, J. M. "Gender differences in depression and response to psychotropic medication." Gender Medicine 3.2 (2006): 93-109.

    Winkler, Dietmar, Edda Pjrek and Siegfried Kasper. "Gender-specific symptoms of depression and anger attacks." The Journal of Men's Health & Gender 3.1 (March 2006): 19-24.

    "Male Depression: Understanding the Issues." Mayo Clinic (2013).

    "Depression in women: Understanding the gender gap​." Mayo Clinic (2016).

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