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Although depression affects both men and women, women are more than twice as likely to have depression – at least that’s what statistics show. However, part of the reason for this discrepancy may be due to cultural issues that often keep men from realizing they are depressed, and less likely to seek treatment even when they suspect or know that they are.

It’s far more socially acceptable for women, particularly in Western societies, to show their emotions and seek help than it is for men. In fact, being emotional is typically regarded as a feminine characteristic.

In most cultures, however, men are raised to be strong and in control of their emotions. At an early age the message is ingrained that “big boys don’t cry”. If they show their feelings – especially sadness or tears – they risk being labeled as weak. As a result, many men deny or hide their feelings – particularly those associated with depression or anxiety – and put on a stoic façade to maintain their dignity.

Symptoms of Depression in Men

Both men and women experience similar depressive symptoms – depressed mood, loss of interest in activities they once enjoyed, decreased energy, appetite changes, problems with sleep – particularly insomnia, hypersomnia, and early morning wakening, and difficulties concentrating. The impact of depression is also similar with both genders. It interferes with their work performance, their social life and close personal relationships, and their daily routine

However, the primary differences lie in how these symptoms manifest outwardly. Whereas women are more likely to feel worthless, hopeless, sad and tearful, men are more likely to be angry, irritable, or show an increase in aggressive behavior. Men are also more likely to complain about the physical aspects of depression, such as fatigue or problems sleeping, rather than admitting to or even recognizing the emotional difficulties associated with the disorder. Men are also more likely to use alcohol or drugs to self-medicate their symptoms.

This tendency for men to refer only to the physical aspects is one of the reasons why depression is not as readily diagnosed as it is in women. It also explains why many men themselves never even consider depression as an explanation for their symptoms. Instead, they tend to keep these socially unacceptable feelings suppressed.


Another notable difference between women and men when it comes to depression is suicidal behavior. Women are far more likely to make suicide attempts. Men, however, are far more likely to succeed at killing themselves. One of the main reasons for this is the fact that men typically choose highly lethal methods, such as shooting themselves with a gun or jumping off a building. Women tend to choose much less reliable means such as overdosing on medication or cutting their wrists.

Seeking Help

It is typically much more difficult for a man to seek treatment for depression than a woman. Just acknowledging the disorder can be a devastating blow to a male ego. Since women are more relational by nature, it is easier for them to go a therapist and open up about their feelings – after all, they’ve been talking about their feelings to their girlfriends since childhood. Additionally, there is far less stigma attached to women in therapy than to men.

Hopefully this stigma will continue to subside as more and more people recognize and accept that depression is a medical disorder, and not a sign of weakness.


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