When discussing depression, attention often focuses on our female friends, family members, and acquaintances who have been affected. In recent years, the women in our lives have become more vocal, sharing their experiences of depression and advocating for their needs as well. While this is an empowering feat, it has also fed into the popular misconception that depression is a female health condition. In truth, depression in men is a severe mental health issue that often goes unrecognized or underestimated.
Our blog today will focus on the differing experiences in how men typically experience depression as compared to women and how—no matter your gender—you can find support through online therapy in Florida, Oregon and California.
Depression in Men vs. Women
The concerns regarding depressed men are well-founded. Compared to women, men are more likely to commit suicide and seek treatment less often. This means a significant number of American men – over 6 million – who also suffer from depression are flying under the radar and not adequately represented in the data. This can lead to misdiagnosis or an underreporting of male depression cases, which can have severe consequences if left untreated.
Although men and women both experience depression and there are some similarities, there are also notable differences between the way the experience manifests in their lives.
Similarities of depression in men and women
Depression, like any mental illness, has internal symptoms that can’t always be seen from the outside Internally, both genders experience similar symptoms, such as difficulty sleeping, lack of energy and motivation, an inability to concentrate or focus, low self-esteem, and negative rumination about the future.
Differences of depression in men and women
For women, depression may manifest as self-doubt, guilt, and worthlessness. Feelings like these can take a toll on mental health and result in social isolation. Women may also ruminate on past events or decisions, trying to draw meaning from them. However, it can be challenging to do so.
On the other hand, men who experience depression may withdraw from their relationships due to feeling disconnected or overwhelmed rather than helpless, as some women might. Furthermore, men are more likely to focus outwardly on anger or aggression than inwardly on reflection and sadness.
Depression in men and women can also manifest itself in different physical symptoms. For example, men may be more likely to experience stomach problems or increased fatigue. In contrast, women can experience fluctuations in weight or appetite. Other physical symptoms common to a man’s experience of depression are:
- Low energy
- Difficulty sleeping
- Changes in appetite or weight
- Physical pain, such as headaches or stomach aches
- Irritability or anger
Men may also be more likely to engage in risky behaviors, such as substance abuse or compulsive gambling, as a way to cope with their depression.
Other factors to consider
However, it is important to remember that gender isn’t the only influencing factor when it comes to depression; other elements like religious beliefs, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, age, and overall health can also play a role. Additionally, specific gender roles and societal pressures may prevent men from discussing their experiences with depression, further preventing them from seeking help even when they suffer from depression.
While the root of depression can be similar between genders, what lies beneath the surface can look very different.
How Do Men Cope with Depression?
As discussed, depression in men most often manifests through physical means. As a result, they are more likely to experience a “masked depression,” which means they may mask their feelings of sadness and hopelessness instead react with anger, irritability, or snappiness. In today’s culture, however unhelpful, these are “safer” emotions for men to feel and act on, rather than open up about what’s truly going on with them. Understandably, this can cause relationship strain and leave many men feeling misunderstood and alone in what they’re going through. This self-inflicted isolation may make men more prone to suicide, self-harm, or violence toward others.
Additionally, men with depression are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol, become violent with others, or engage in high-risk activities such as reckless driving and unsafe sex. Furthermore, men tend to try and cope with depression through physical activity or distraction-based activities like binge-watching or playing video games. These coping strategies may help in some cases, but rarely contribute to a full and vibrant life. It is essential to stay mindful of these activities, so they don’t become maladaptive behaviors that only serve to temporarily dull or mask their symptoms instead of helping combat them.
Other Internal and Observable Experiences in Men with Depression
- Problems with sexual desire and performance or a decrease in sex drive
- Inability to meet the responsibilities of work, caring for family, or other important activities
- Overindulging in escapism
- Present controlling or abusive behavior in relationships
- Having an anxious or restless feeling or feeling “on edge”
- Low testosterone levels
- Chest tightness
Why Don’t Depressed Men Seek Help?
The truth is that many men aren’t comfortable talking about their feelings and emotions, particularly when seeking help for mental health problems. Men often stay quiet about their depression due to cultural expectations of masculinity and the need to appear strong in a society that values strength and independence. Opening up to a therapist (aka “appearing weak” in front of someone else), even a male therapist specializing in men’s issues can prove to be a challenge. Many times, even if a man is an advocate for others to go to therapy (or he encourages his partner or friends to go), it’s another thing entirely for him to admit he needs support himself.
Alternatively, men may also lack the emotional vocabulary to be able to recognize what it is they are feeling in the first place, making it harder for them to get help for depression when it is needed. While calling out toxic masculinity and educating young boys about the necessities of learning their internal landscape are gaining traction, we still have a long way to go.
Is There Hope for Men Dealing with Depression?
The most concerning statistics show that men are much more likely than women to die by suicide due to their higher rates of severe depression (and lethal means). A major contributing factor for this is that men continue to struggle with communication and expressing their feelings openly and are, therefore, less likely than women to seek treatment for their mental health issues.
Unfortunately, this frequently results in their condition getting so severe that they have no choice but to seek treatment. Often, other challenges arise due to the more risky and volatile choices men make in coping with their depression, such as receiving a DUI or suspension from work due to increased substance use, racking up financial debt from compulsive gambling, or developing relational issues due to the previous two examples or increased irritability. Without insight into the depression, it’s these challenges and others like it that might finally convince a man experiencing depression to seek treatment.
The good news is that once men begin therapy for depression—offered online in Florida, Oregon, and California—there is hope and an ability to turn things around.
By understanding depression’s subtleties and learning how to approach them, men can better understand their feelings, communicate with their partners, and find healthier means of coping with their depression. Your Florida, Oregon, or California therapist will work with you to identify the root of the issue and develop action-based strategies for improving your current functioning. With time and a commitment to putting what you’ve learned into practice, you can recover from depression and experience more joy and connection in your life.
While agreeing to go to a male therapist specializing in men’s issues is a great start, it should be said that you also have to be willing to try and put in the effort because this will take practice. Once you’re more aware of your emotions, you’ll be able to ask for help when you need it and communicate more effectively. Taking care of yourself will not only give you a chance to connect with the women in your life in a more meaningful way, but it will also enable you to provide them with the same level of support and encouragement that you provide yourself.
Online Therapy that Treats Depression in Men in Florida, Oregon and California
Depression can be a harrowing experience for anyone to cope with regardless of which gender you identify with; however, due to social and gender-based attitudes, men may be more likely to feel invalidated, misunderstood, and voiceless. While no two people will experience depression in the same way, if you’re struggling with depression, it’s vital that everyone seeks out help and gets the support they need. Vulnerability comes with significant strength, and being open about our experiences can give us an invaluable understanding of ourselves and those around us. In addition, therapy allows you to unpack your emotions in a safe environment and helps you learn how to identify ways to cope with depression.
At My Stress Solutions, we believe that men must start openly discussing depression and their feelings without fear of judgment or ridicule. We believe that gender stereotypes need to be broken down and the macho mask of masculinity challenged. The effects of depression on men and their families are unique, and we recognize that which is why our counseling services are specialized for men.
For more information about online therapy for men in Florida, Oregon, or California or to schedule a consultation, please don’t hesitate to contact us. If you are currently in therapy but are not getting your desired results, it is never too late to change therapists and find one that is a better fit for you.