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It is normal to feel sad every so often, but depression is more than feeling down for a few days. Increased mental health awareness is teaching us depression is more common than we once thought, and when the symptoms last for two weeks or more, it could indicate a serious, clinical mood disorder.

Depression can affect anyone of any age, and various factors, including gender, can alter symptoms. Men can have a different experience of depression than women, in numerous ways.

Prevalence

Research shows that women are nearly twice as likely to experience major depression than men, but this may be a byproduct of society: men often face more of a stigma around admitting to depression, so they may be more likely to ignore or deny the issue.

Men are also more likely to self-treat and avoid going to a doctor about depression, which has led to a poor understanding of depression in men.

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Why It Affects Men Differently

Part of the reason that depression affects men differently maybe because of the expectations put on men, again by society. Young boys often learn that they are supposed to be tough, independent, and competitive and are told not to cry or show profound emotions, which are perceived as being feminine.

Boys can learn to use emotions like shame and anger and develop defense mechanisms to cope with feelings of sadness.

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Causes of Depression in Men

Evidence suggests that the triggers for depression are similar for both genders, but some researchers argue that situations of grief and loss are strong precipitators of depression in men.

These feelings can result from the loss of a loved one or a relationship, such as a death or a divorce, but they can also stem from the loss of status, financial stability, sexual prowess, or physical strength.

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Symptoms of Depression in Men

Some symptoms of depression in men overlap with symptoms seen in women, while others are truly unique. Both men and women may feel hopeless and tired. They may have difficulty sleeping and not enjoy things the way they once did.

But men may also exhibit behaviors that are not commonly interpreted as signs of depression. These can include displaying inappropriate anger, spending extra time at work, engaging in risky behavior, developing drug or alcohol problems, and experiencing physical symptoms, like pain, headaches, and digestive issues.

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Why Depression Goes Undiagnosed in Men

Depression is underdiagnosed in men for a variety of reasons. Men may not realize that they are experiencing depression if their symptoms are physical, like headaches and upset stomachs. They often downplay symptoms or are reluctant to talk about them.

Even men who suspect they are depressed may resist or avoid treatment for fear that the stigma of a depression diagnosis could affect their careers or family lives.

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Why Men Are Reluctant to Seek Help

Men may resist seeking help for depression for many reasons, and most of them are not fully understood. Data indicates that men are far more likely to go to the emergency room for treatment than to a general practitioner, which relates to their preference for self-management and denial of their condition.

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Suicide in Men

Suicide attempts are similar between genders, but men are more likely to be successful, so much so that the suicide rate in men, in general, is four times higher than women.

In some populations, such as elderly men, the suicide rate is much as seven times that of women. There are many reasons for this. Women tend to show more warning signs that they may be suicidal, which gives loved ones time to step in, and men tend to use deadlier means, like hanging or firearms.

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Diagnosis

To be diagnosed with depression, a man must have five symptoms of depression every day, persistently, for at least two weeks. One of these symptoms must be a loss of interest or pleasure in activities or a depressed mood.

Men are more likely to see their doctor about physical signs of depression than emotional signs, so the doctor may have to dig deeper to reveal this required symptom.

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Medication

Antidepressants are medicines used to treat depression by improving how the brain uses chemicals to regulate mood. This treatment takes some time to work, so it is important to take them for an extended period of time to give them a chance. Some people have to try multiple antidepressants before finding one that works.

People who take antidepressants should never stop taking them on their own. Stopping too suddenly can cause withdrawal symptoms. Instead, when it's time to stop, the doctor will determine a plan to wean the patient off the medication.

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Therapy

Therapy is also an effective treatment for depression, specifically cognitive-behavioral, problem-solving, and interpersonal therapy.

If a man's symptoms do not respond to medication or a combination of medication and therapy, doctors may consider electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). During ECT, electric currents are sent through the brain, triggering a brief seizure and changing brain chemistry. In some cases, when depression is severe, ECT is a front-line therapy. ECT is not painful, but it can have side effects, including memory loss.

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Disclaimer

This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.