Reviewed by Katelyn Hagerty, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
The potential causes of depression can vary widely, from your genetics to the diet you eat. But what role does gender play in depression risk, and do the causes of depression in men differ from those in women?
This is no time for a Mars and Venus argument, and while we know everyone would love to jump into a battle of the sexes, the reality is that some things are more likely to trigger depression and depressive episodes in men than in women.
Why does this happen? What things can more seriously affect a man’s mental health than a woman’s?
The answers to these questions and others are why we’re here right now. And we’ll get to them shortly, but before we do that, we need to get everyone on the same page about depression in general.
Briefly, there are some things you need to know about depression before we talk about how it specifically affects men.
You might be surprised by how many men deal with common signs of depression.
According to the American Psychological Association, about nine percent of men in the United States have experienced a depressed or anxious thought on a daily basis for some period of time.
Most of those men don’t seek help for it, though — about one in three men gets medication, and only one in four seeks therapy.
Depression (specifically, major depression) is a mood disorder, and it has some common symptoms of depression regardless of gender. People with a diagnosis of depression can feel a complex mesh of physical symptoms and emotional symptoms including:
Feelings of hopelessness
Feelings of sadness and anxiety
Increases in Risky Behavior
Changes in weight and appetite
Insomnia and other changes in sleep patterns
Thoughts of death, suicide or self-harm
It’s a long list of stuff nobody signs up for, and if you’ve felt these feelings regularly for a period of at least two weeks, you may have a depressive disorder like clinical depression. Or if you feel like nothing is getting better, you may be wondering why is my depression getting worse?
As we said, depression can have many potential causes. Social factors like social isolation, your family history, diet, inactivity and other things that you have varying levels of control over can all increase (or decrease) your risk of depression.
But when it comes to men, there are some particular causes and risk factors that you should pay attention to, perhaps even more so than the gender-inclusive list we’ve already mentioned.
It’s not so much that one thing affects a man and doesn’t affect a woman, but there do tend to be certain risks for which men have more vulnerability. Men are at a higher risk for depression based criteria, including:
Losing your job or having sudden and extreme shifts in your employment status can cause serious financial consequences, not to mention wreak havoc on your confidence and sense of security.
The same can happen when a parent dies, or when a transfer moves you to an entirely new place.
According to research, men tend to derive more of their sense of purpose from their work, so this one can hit really hard.
Studies show that men with a lower level of education are more vulnerable to mental health problems later in middle age.
Lower education may be related to income and other measures of success and security that can leave a man (head of household or otherwise) feeling hopeless.
It’s also been proven, by the way, that things like depression in divorce and unemployment can have a more negative effect on men than on women.
So, consider that something a partner weathers with their mental health intact might affect a man differently.
It’s worth noting in this that, in addition to being at higher risk of depression in certain circumstances, men are also at a higher risk of one serious consequence of severe depression: the potential for suicide.
Unmarried men between 40 and 60 with both treated and untreated depression are more likely to die by suicide, and three and a half times more likely than married men.
If you or anyone you know has had suicidal thoughts or feelings, seek help immediately.
Depression in men is absolutely treatable. In fact, it has several proven-effective treatment options that can be used independently or combined together, based on your needs.
The pieces of this triforce of treatment plans include medication, therapy and lifestyle changes, and depending on your unique circumstances, you stand to benefit from each of them in different ways.
It’s hard to talk about depression treatment without mentioning the option of taking antidepressants.
The current king among the antidepressants is the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, or SSRI.
SSRIs basically protect your brain’s supply of serotonin neurotransmitters, so that your brain has the right chemical to prevent your depressed mood from hitting rock bottom when it needs it.
SSRIs don’t actually create serotonin — they just prevent your brain from reabsorbing too much when it does a little cleaning.
Men often feel a particularly potent stigma against interpersonal therapy or psychotherapy, but it’s not a place where you’ll come to feel worse and be weak — it’s a support system to help you really look at those feelings and, over time, learn healthy ways to cope with them.
A great example of this is cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, in which a mental health specialist teaches you how to spot intrusive and unhealthy thinking patterns and reject them.
The goal here is to prevent deep depressive episodes from kicking off.
Therapy and medication are effective, and together, they can help many people see drastic improvements in some of their symptoms.
But you might also want to take a look at your lifestyle choices and decide whether they support your mood goals.
Are you getting enough sleep, or battling insomnia? Are you watching your diet, or eating unhealthy foods?
Some medical conditions — like obesity, for instance — can increase your risk of a mental health condition.
Making the right choices with your body benefits your brain. Get sleep, eat right, exercise and lay off the vices and substance abuse, and you may see improvements in your mental health.
Whether you’re a man, a woman or nonbinary, depression is a very real, very serious mood disorder that requires treatment and support.
Men can often feel like reaching out for support is a sign of weakness, but we’re here to tell you that asking for help is the smartest, strongest and bravest move you can make.
Getting that help can feel like a monumental task, but it doesn’t have to be — especially if you make use of resources when they’re available.
Take our mental health resources, for instance: in addition to support for conditions like depression and anxiety, we also offer online therapy options. This is a fast, convenient and easy way to get in touch with a mental health professional, all from the comfort and convenience of wherever you have wifi.
If you’re a man with depression, getting someone on your team to help you navigate the treatment process is necessary.