Depression affects about 16 million American adults every year. It is the leading cause of disability worldwide. Symptoms include depressed mood, loss of interest in things you used to enjoy, fatigue, inability to concentrate, aches, disturbed sleep, weight changes, irritability, feelings of hopelessness, crying for no apparent reason, and thoughts of suicide or death. While women experience depression at a higher rate than men, many experts believe that depression in men is underdiagnosed. This happens in part because the symptoms may look very different in men and women.
Depression in women
Women are diagnosed with depression at about twice the rate as men. Although many believe that depression in men is underdiagnosed, it’s still likely that women experience depression at a much higher rate. There are several reasons for this. The biggest is thought to be large hormonal changes women experience compared to men. This includes puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, childbirth, and menopause. These hormonal changes have significant impacts on cognition and emotions, which may lead to more depression. This is especially pronounced after childbirth, when, in addition to major hormonal shifts, women also suffer from sleep deprivation and increased stress.
Woman are also more likely than men to be victims of domestic abuse and sexual assault, both of which are major risk factors for developing depression. Domestic abuse is both miserable and often leads to feelings of helplessness, which is characteristic of depression. Sexual assault often causes feelings of anger and shame, which, combined with feeling helpless, often lead to depression.
In terms of depressive symptoms, women are more likely to ruminate over negative feelings. This is when you dig yourself into a rut with negative self-talk. Women are also more likely to become depressed in response to life stress such as the death of a loved one or losing a job. Women are also more likely to develop an eating disorder with depression.
Depression in men
Men get depressed for essentially the same reasons as women, although hormones are less of a factor. The one exception seems to be a recent study that found depression was more common among men with low testosterone. A major difference in men is that men are less likely to recognize the warning signs of depression and less likely to seek treatment. When men do seek treatment, it’s often for physical symptoms like headaches, chest pain, or insomnia, rather than emotional symptoms.
The symptoms of depression may also look different in men. For example, men are more likely to experience irritability, anger, or aggression. Women also feel irritable, but culturally, men typically feel better expressing their depressed mood as anger than as sadness. Men are also much more likely to engage in risky behavior, such as drunk driving or unprotected sex. Men are more likely to self-medicate their depressive symptoms with drugs or alcohol. Therefore, a substance use disorder is frequently a symptom of depression. Finally, men are more likely to die by suicide. The suicide issue is complicated though, because it seems to have as much to do with impulsiveness as it does with depression. Nevertheless, depression is surely a contributing factor in many cases.
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