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August 29, 2013

Research on Men and Depression

Research is finally catching up with what clinicians have known for some time: Depression looks different in men than it does in women.  However the book was written on women, suggesting that women are 70% more likely to be depressed than men.  The medical and mental health community tends to have “blinders on when it comes to men” (Dr. Andrew Leuchter, UCLA). That’s why we are told that women tend to suffer more from depression than men do, yet men are 4 times as likely to commit suicide.  What is going on?

While the following symptoms are common to both men and women: sadness, difficulties with sleep, feeling guilty and worthless, loss of interest in pleasurable activities, men express their depression in in behaviors that are designed to override or numb the inner experience of depression and may manifest in irritability and aggression, anger and rage attacks, excessive blaming, risk taking behaviors and hyperactivity, alcohol and drug use, promiscuos sex or endless workdays.  Women tend to respond more with overt sadness and crying spells, inability to function, shame, difficulties making decision, weight gain or weight loss, less to no interest in sex.

In summary, men tend to externalize their feelings more so than women and they seem to attempt to compensate for the feelings of depression by numbing or overriding the feelings with action (drinking, rage, excessive …).  Men are also much less ambivalent in their actions, in the context of depression, this means they are more likely to be successful should they attempt suicide.

Here is the male symptom scale and the results of the study. The chart shows how both men and women and men alone endorsed these additional criteria

Symptom % of men & women % of men
Stress 68.9 63.3
Irritability 90.3 86.6
Anger attacks/aggression 92.5 94.85
Sleep problems 37.7 29.2
Alcohol/other drug use 51.6 61.4
Loss of interest 89.7 87.8
Risk-taking behaviors 41.6 52.7
Hyperactivity 57.9 57.6
Mean Score 6.06 6.05
Prevalence, % 23.8 26.3

It looks like the new depression symptoms meaningfully identified both men and women who suffer from depression.  These symptom should be added to evaluative tools of clinicians and a general awareness in the population could assist in getting men the necessary help.

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