Depression can weigh down anyone. Compared with women, though, fewer men are diagnosed with this common mental health condition. Why? A recent study says it may be partly because men show depression differently.
Depression can affect a person in many ways. You may feel sad, hopeless, and uninterested in your favorite activities. You may be coping with chronic pain, fatigue, or forgetfulness. Many people also notice dramatic changes in appetite, weight, or sleep.
If you feel this way almost every day for more than 2 weeks, your doctor may diagnose you with depression. These traditional symptoms, though, may not always appear in men. That's the conclusion of a recent study in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.
Using past studies, the researchers first changed the criteria doctors usually use to diagnose depression. Then they looked at data from a national survey on mental health. The survey included almost 5,700 adults. Nearly 40% were men.
In their analysis, the researchers looked for nontraditional symptoms of depression. Those included anger, aggression, and irritability. They also took into account substance abuse and risky behavior. When they considered these symptoms, they found that just as many men as women had depression. Their conclusion: The condition may be missed more often in men.
Symptoms aside, men may not be diagnosed with depression for other reasons, too. Nearly 40% of adults suffering from depression don't tell their doctor about their symptoms. Men may be especially silent on the matter. They may feel embarrassed or ashamed. They may try to suppress their emotions to uphold their masculinity.
Many men also mask their depression with alcohol or drugs. They are more likely to act out through risky behavior. These failed attempts at coping can make it even harder to diagnose the condition.
It isn't clear what specifically causes depression. It's likely a combination of biological and social factors. A chemical imbalance in the brain may trigger symptoms. High levels of stress, such as after the death of a loved one, may also play a part.
No matter the cause, depression can be deadly if left untreated, especially for men. In fact, men are 4 times more likely to die from suicide than women. Antidepressants and counseling can help ease suffering. Many people feel better in as little as 2 months.
Suicide is a serious concern for depressed men. It’s especially on the uptick among middle-age adults. During the last decade, researchers documented a nearly 50% increase in suicide deaths for men between the ages of 50 and 60. Their most common method of choice is a firearm. The rise may be related to the recent economic downfall.
Concerned you or a loved one may be suicidal? Talk with your doctor. Or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255. It's available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
National Alliance on Mental Illness
National Institute on Mental Health