Depression can hit anyone, regardless of age, sex, gender, culture, religion, or economic status. But symptoms can vary, as can the way we choose to respond to our depression.

And nowhere is this more clear than looking at statistics around depression in men versus women.

What is depression?

Depression means your low, despondent moods and negative thinking are affecting your ability to be yourself. Even if you manage to hide the worst of it from those around you, your ability to cope at the levels you are used to is diminished.

General symptoms of depression

Signs of depression are not just mental and emotional, but also physical. And these symptoms go on for six weeks, if not far longer. They include:

  • negative, destructive thoughts
  • feeling in turns emotional then numb
  • no sense of hope for yourself and the future
  • loss of interest in hobbies and sex
  • being withdrawn and not interested in socialising
  • unexplained exhaustion
  • a sense your head is foggy
  • heavy limbs, as if you are pushing through sand
  • low motivation
  • changes to eating and sleeping.

How can signs be different in men?

While many women feel sad when depressed, or cry more often than usual? For some men, depression can manifest as raised anger, irritability, and lashing out.

They are also more likely to turn to drugs and alcohol when depressed, or other destructive and reckless behaviours, like driving too fast or having affairs.

They might also manifest their moods as unexplained physical pain.

In summary, additional symptoms to look for in men include:

  • irritability, anger, and possible aggression
  • destructive, reckless behaviours and risk taking
  • seeming out of control
  • complaining of physical pain.

The dangers of depression in men

Despite advances being made, we live in a society where many men are still raised under the premise that being ‘masculine’ means being 'strong' and a provider. That emotions are 'feminine'. And in some cultures no changes have ever been made to this gender expectation.

This unfortunately means that men are more likely to deny they are not doing well, and are less likely to talk to someone when they are having dark thoughts or low moods. They are less likely to reach out for help.

The NHS reports that only 36 per cent of referrals for psychological talk therapies are for men.

The most dangerous issue of all

And this leads to the most dangerous issue of all. Although women are more likely to attempt suicide, men are more likely to carry it through and succeed. They tend to be more definitive and use more lethal methods.

The Mental Health Foundation suggests that three times as many more men than women die of suicide yearly here in the UK, with men between the ages of 40-49 being the most at risk.

How can I help a male friend or partner with depression?

Pushing a man to talk when they don’t want to or when they never do is unlikely to work. It might just make them feel worse. Instead:

  • point out their changes in behaviour and share you are worried
  • avoid criticism or platitudes
  • share facts and then just listen
  • let them know you are there for them if they do want to talk or share
  • spend time doing things with them even if it doesn’t involve talking
  • but encourage healthy activities over destructive ones (exercise over partying)
  • keep inviting them to do things even if they keep saying no
  • offer to go with him as support if he should choose to see his family doctor or a counsellor
  • or let them know help is available without being pushy or judgemental
  • keep checking in, and if they say angry things remember it’s the depression talking, not the person you know and love
  • remember to take care of yourself (we can't help others if we are exhausted).

And if it seems like they are going to hurt themselves or someone else, call emergency services.

Are you a man who suspects he is depressed, but is nervous to try therapy? All therapists on our site are registered with professional bodies, and you can read their profiles and reviews before booking. If it doesn't feel a fit, you are free to try another therapist instead.

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