Depression in Men

Depression in Men

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Abstract

Most individuals associate depression with women and ignore the fact that men are also vulnerable to the disease. However, with various studies being carried out on the issue, it has been found that more than 6 million men suffer from depression annually. This is an indication that the mental illness has no bias between the two sexes (Gorman, 2006). This paper will explore depression in men highlighting explanations as to how depression in men is much different than depression in women, in addition to, pointing out to differences in symptoms between the sexes. Furthermore, the literature review will also discuss several cultural and social influences that add to these differences and show some cross- cultural similarities, if any, in prevalence of depression and presentation of symptoms.

Introduction

Causes of male and female depression and anxiety are usually quite different from one another. It has not been established quite well if stress affects women and men differently. However, as the two genders operate in different ways and in distinct social contexts, they both tend to show different dispositions of emotions and personality characteristics. As it follows, their coping mechanisms and responses to stressful circumstances are also different. Over time, depression usually occurs in about 20% women when compared to only 10% of men (Gorman, 2006). Although the real reason for such a disparity is not well documented, the higher the incidence of the illness in females is usually accounted to a number of gender- related differences in certain factors of biology, cognitive styles and a higher prevalence of economic and psychosocial stresses and difficulties in women. Possible mechanisms of biology might include differences in the function and structure of the brain, genetic factors and mood- related or cognitive- behavior affects of female gonadal steroids on enzyme function and neurotransmitters in vulnerable individuals (Gorman, 2006). The causes of these disparities in prevalence of depression have been studied on for numerous years with differing results and conclusions.

Literature Review

Women and women share similar core set of symptoms of depression. These include such things as lack of motivation, depressed mood, and loss of happiness, inconsistencies with sleep, difficulties concentrating and feelings of guilt. Nevertheless, numerous studies have been conducted to study depression in both men and women and concluded that there are some distinctions in the pattern of symptoms shown in women and men (Gorman, 2006).

One such study was launched to look into how men express sadness and feelings of depression in both women and men. The study established that women were more probable to show visible signs of stress or emotion like throwing tantrums and crying. The men, on the other hand, seemed more rigid and were less likely to show any visible emotion. Another study wanted to establish the gender differences in showing symptoms commonly associated with men like anger and irritability. The survey established that not less than three quarters of the 151 depressed individuals who participated in the study showed more irritability, but that there were no significant distinctions between women and men in how often the symptom was expressed or experienced. However, the study found that the male participants suffered twice as frequently as the females from attacks of increased anger- episodes of inappropriate and intense anger. Furthermore, these bouts of anger were observed to be more than thrice as those observed in women (Kessler, et al., 1994).

Other studies carried out on the same subject indicated common symptoms of male depression to include feelings of irritability, withdrawal, isolation, need to keep oneself busy, overdrinking, among others. According to the researchers, these are some of the unhealthy strategies men apply to cope with stressful events and situations. They proposed that the disparity between males and females when it comes to handling stress is that women do not usually go for these coping measures (Kindler & Prescott, 1999). They opt for other coping mechanisms that are seen as healthy like talking to someone or crying. As it follows, depression affects men differently than it affects women. Therefore, when depression occurs in males, it is in most cases severe than the one observed in females, only that it is usually masked by the unhealthy coping mechanisms described above. The researchers pointed out that because of a number of reasons, some of which include masking depression, the illness goes unnoticed and, therefore, untreated in many men. However, they indicated that the illness gets much better after treatment (Kindler & Prescott, 1999).

There are several reasons as to why male depression goes untreated. One of them is failure to recognize the illness. Many males ignore feelings and emotions associated with women like feeling emotional and sad. However, these are not the only symptoms of depression as numerous men think. Other symptoms include fatigue, headaches, digestive problems, chronic pain and irritability. When men ignore such symptoms, which women unlikely ignore, their illness goes unnoticed and untreated. Another reason why depression in men goes undiagnosed is downplaying symptoms and signs. Unlike women, most men do not like to admit to how much depressed they are, and they opt to ignore the symptoms rather than seek medical help (Kornstein, 1997).

Reluctance to share and discuss symptoms of depression with another party also contributes to the large number of undiagnosed depression patients. Men generally do not like to share feelings or talk about themselves. Therefore, when affected by certain ‘women- like’ symptoms they might be reluctant to seek help. Resistance of mental health treatment, especially because of fear of stigma also increases the cases of undiagnosed depression. Men usually avoid and refuse treatment when they realize that they have depression or other emotional disturbances (Kornstein, 1997).

Male depression leads to a lot of the same general symptoms as female patients do. However, it has been indicated that men are usually more willing to acknowledge symptoms as irritability, fatigue and loss of interest in work and social activities and changes in patterns of sleep and eating than they are to admit to symptoms of emptiness, sadness, guilt and worthlessness, as many women do. There are also some common reactions to male depression that are unique to men more than they are to women. For instance, most men turn to drug and alcohol abuse when depressed. They do this mainly to try to numb their symptoms, and they are more willing to do this than ask for help unlike women (Kornstein, 1997).

It is also common for men to turn violent when they are suffering from depression. The combination of anger, alcohol and frustration usually makes them violent and abusive. Women are not likely to be violent or abusive. Other men cope with depression by engaging themselves in behavior that is reckless. Most men lose interest in everything and, as a result, do not worry about anything in their lives. Because of this, attitude men usually find themselves behaving dangerously and recklessly. Suicide is also another common element associated with depression. Although more women that are depressed try to commit suicide, studies demonstrate that males are 4 times more probable to die than women are by suicide, particularly in the United States (Kornstein, 1997).

Numerous studies have been conducted to look into the reasons why these differences in symptoms and coping mechanisms occur in men and women suffering from depression (Winkleret al., 2006). Male depression is usually an expression not commonly associated with men and not usually approached as it in the case with female depression. Because of the reactions of men to the symptoms and signs of the illness and standards the society sets, male depression is usually different from female depression (Kornstein, 1997).

There are numerous reasons why this is so. The first reason has to do with the different approach to roles of gender in the society. While women are usually free to show their emotions and feelings, men are expected to do the exact opposite. The role of men in the society is usually led by cultural functions that require them to act strong and tough and do away with emotions. As it follows, when a male finds himself being overwhelmed by emotions he finds it easier to hide some emotions as opposed to a female who free to express them. Because of the male roles in the society, male depression is commonly associated with symptoms of self- criticism and emotional repression. On the other hand, women usually have depression associated with low self- esteem and dependency. Men become violent, commit suicide and abuse alcohol because of repressing their emotions (Kornstein, 1997).

The idea and perception of mental health treatment and help is another significant reason as to why men respond differently to depression than women. Because men are expected to remain strong at all times and need no help, they find it difficult to seek medical help unlike women who are used to being dependant on individuals and sharing. To men, showing up for therapy is a sign of weakness and femininity. Other scientists have also pointed out that there is a biological basis as to why men and women behave differently when it comes to depression. They argue that women show and express emotion because of estrogen and other feminine hormones that affect their mechanisms leaving them vulnerable to emotions and feelings (Kornstein, 1997).

According to several other studies, differences in female and male depression may have both social and biological causes (Winkleret al., 2006). Women are found with the illness more than double the time of men. According to the researchers, the difference in incidence starts at adolescent. Premenopausal and postpartum periods are other vulnerable stages to depression for women, stages men do not experience. Nevertheless, even though there might be hormonal influences that predispose more women to depression than men, males still are likely not to admit to the illness and ask for help. While more women are likely to suffer from depression when compared to men, the men never feel comfortable approaching medical experts about their conditions; therefore, few men ever are diagnosed or treated. As it was seen before, seeking therapy for men is difficult mainly because of their designated roles in the society of being strong and independent (Winkleret al., 2006).

References

Gorman, M. (2006). Gender differences in depression and response to psychotropic medication. Gender Medicine 3 (2): 93-109.

Kessler, R. et al. (1994). Sex and Depression in the National Comorbidity Survey. II. Cohort effects. Journal of Affective Disorders, 30: 15-26.

Kindler, S. & Prescott, A. (1999). A population- based twin study of lifetime major depression in men and women. Archievers of General Psychiatry, 56 (1): 39- 44.

Kornstein, G. (1997). Gender differences in depression: implications for treatment.  J Clin Psychiatry, 58 (15):12–8.

Winkler, D. et al. (2006). Gender-specific symptoms of depression and anger attacks. The Journal of Men’s Health & Gender 3 (1): 19-24.