Dr. Van Fossen explains difference between male and female depression
Dr. Katharine Van Fossen comes to Real Milwaukee to talk about understanding depression in men. She talks about the differences between male and female depression. She also provided further information about this
What is depression?
A depressive disorder is a whole-body illness, involving the body, mood, and thoughts, and affects the way a person eats and sleeps, feels about himself or herself, and thinks about things. It is not the same as being unhappy or in a blue mood. Nor is it a sign of personal weakness or a condition that can be willed or wished away. People with a depressive illness cannot merely “pull themselves together” and get better.
Without treatment, symptoms can last for weeks, months, or years. Appropriate treatment, however, can help most people who suffer from depression. During any one year period, nearly 19 million American adults suffer from depressive illness. Yet, treatment can alleviate symptoms in nearly 80 percent of cases.
What contributes to depression in women?
Women experience depression about twice as often as men. Many hormonal factors may contribute to the increased rate of depression in women–particularly such factors as menstrual cycle changes, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), pregnancy, miscarriage, postpartum period, perimenopause, and menopause. Many women also face additional stresses such as responsibilities both at work and home, single parenthood, and caring for children and aging parents.
Depression in Men
While clinical depression was once considered a “woman’s disease,” more than 6 million men in the U.S. have depression each year. Unfortunately, the lingering image of depression as a female condition may keep men who are clinically depressed from recognizing the symptoms of depression and seeking treatment.
Depression actually affects both sexes. It disrupts relationships and interferes with work and daily activities. The symptoms of depression in men are similar to the symptoms of depression in women. But men tend to express those symptoms differently. Common symptoms of depression include loss of interest in usually pleasurable activities, fatigue, changes in appetite, sleep disturbances, and apathy. In women, depression may be more likely to cause feelings of sadness and worthlessness. Depression in men, on the other hand, may be more likely to cause them to be irritable, aggressive, or hostile.
Differences between male and female depression
|Women with depression tend to:|| Men with depression tend to:
|Blame themselves||Blame others|
|Feel sad, apathetic, and worthless||Feel angry, irritable, and ego inflated|
|Feel anxious and scared||Feel suspicious and guarded|
|Avoid conflicts at all costs||Create conflicts|
|Feel slowed down and nervous||Feel restless and agitated|
|Have trouble setting boundaries||Need to feel in control at all costs|
|Find it easy to talk about self-doubt and despair||Find it “weak” to admit self-doubt or despair|
|Use food, friends, and “love” to self-medicate||Use alcohol, TV, sports, and sex to self-medicate|
|Adapted from: Male Menopause by Jed Diamond|
Why is depression in men commonly not recognized?
There are several reasons why the symptoms of clinical depression in men are not commonly recognized. For example, men tend to deny having problems because they are supposed to “be strong.” And American culture suggests that expressing emotion is largely a feminine trait. As a result, men who are depressed are more likely to talk about the physical symptoms of their depression — such as feeling tired — rather than symptoms related to emotions.
Does depression in men affect sexual desire and performance?
Yes. Depression in men can affect sexual desire and performance. Unfortunately, some antidepressants and other medications can do the same. Men often are unwilling to admit to problems with their sexuality. Many mistakenly feel that the problems are related to their manhood, when, in fact, they are caused by a medical problem such as clinical depression.
What are some observable symptoms of depression in men?
Men are less likely to show more “typical” signs of depression such as sadness. Depression in men may cause them to keep their feelings hidden. Instead of expressing a depressed mood, they may seem more irritable and aggressive.
For these reasons, many men — as well as doctors and other health care professionals — may fail to recognize the problem as depression.
What are the consequences of untreated depression in men?
Depression in men can have devastating consequences. The CDC reports that men in the U.S. are about four times more likely than women to commit suicide. A staggering 75% to 80% of all people who commit suicide in the U.S. are men. Though more women attempt suicide, more men are successful at actually ending their lives. This may be due to the fact that men tend to use more lethal methods of committing suicide, for example using a gun rather than taking an overdose of pills.
Why is depression in men so hard to accept?
Understanding how men in our society are brought up to behave is particularly important in identifying and treating their depression. Depression in men often can be traced to cultural expectations. Men are supposed to be successful. They should rein in their emotions. They must be in control. These cultural expectations can mask some of the true symptoms of depression. Instead, men may express aggression and anger — seen as more acceptable “tough guy” behavior.
Is a stigma attached to depression in men?
Yes. And men generally have a hard time dealing with the stigma of depression. They are more likely to deal with their symptoms with by drinking alcohol or abusing drugs, and/or pursue other risky behavior. Many men avoid talking about depressed feelings to friends or family.