Each year, 20 million U.S. adults suffer from depression. While research indicates that women are twice as likely to experience depression, it’s men who tend to deny their depression and are reluctant to consult a doctor.
“Women and men show symptoms of depression differently,” explains Robert Gerstman, DO, an osteopathic psychiatrist from Sellersville, Pa. “Women might indicate emotional turmoil; whereas men tend to explain physical problems, like headaches or chronic pain.”
Causes of Depression
Similarly, men and women have different causes for depression according to Dr. Gerstman.
“While both women and men might be at risk after a major life crisis, men are much more vulnerable to a job-related trigger,” he explains.
Some causes for depression that might occur in the workplace include a lack of job security, excessive overtime, or a salary that inaccurately represents one's level of responsibility. Additional triggers for depression can be rapid social, political and economic change.
“When something affects the traditional male roles in the home or workplace, men may experience a profound loss of identity and dignity,” explains Dr. Gerstman. “This increases their risk of depression and other mental illnesses.”
Both men and women suffering from depression might experience feelings of despair and sadness; guilt and insignificance; and trouble sleeping. However, men are less likely to cry and more likely to:
Experience gastrointestinal distress and sexual dysfunction
Act irritable, angry, and destructive
Suffer an inability to function at the office
Avoid family, friends and pleasurable activities
“Whether substance abuse is a cause or result of being depressed remains a question in the industry,” explains Dr. Gerstman. “Substance abuse can definitely disguise depression, making the condition even more difficult to diagnose.”
However, when a doctor in fact recognizes and diagnoses male depression, men often resist the appropriate care, fearful of losing respect from family members, friends and colleagues.
“This may be a consequence of their early education to focus on achievement and success, which creates constant pressure to perform well,” Dr. Gerstman explains “So when they have stress at home or work they are inclined to keep their suffering to themselves.”
Without proper treatment, depression can be dangerous and deadly. About 38,000 Americans kill themselves each year, most of which are men. Men with depression commit suicide more often than women. In addition, men with depression are twice as likely to develop coronary heart disease.
“Treatment of depression alleviates symptoms in almost 90% of patients,” explains Dr. Gerstman. “If you or someone close to you suffers from depression, contact his or her family physician immediately.”
Dealing with Depression
Dr. Gerstman also recommends these self-help strategies for dealing with depression:
Set realistic goals and assume a reasonable amount of responsibility.
Break large tasks into small ones and set priorities.
Spend time with people in whom you can confide and allow them to help you.
Schedule enjoyable activities like going to a movie or a ballgame.
Avoid making important decisions until the depression lifts.
Try to replace negative thinking habits with positive thinking.
“The first step in dealing with depression is recognizing the symptoms and seeking treatment, “ explains Dr. Gerstman. “Depression is commonly considered the most treatable of all mental illnesses and no one should have to live with it.”