Depression occurs in the young and the old and in men and women. We do know that the rate of depression in men is less than for women.
The symptoms that men experience can be different from those that women experience. Symptoms including anger, irritability, and feeling discouraged are more common in men than symptoms of hopelessness or helplessness.
Typical symptoms we associate with depression such as depressed mood may not be present in depression in men. This can make it more difficult to recognize depression in men. Many famous men, including President Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill, had depression and still lived successful lives.
Unfortunately, men are not as likely as women to admit to having depression. Even if they do admit to having depression, they may be less likely to seek treatment. Men may stuff their feelings instead of verbalizing them. They may work more, gamble, or use alcohol or drugs to avoid their feelings. Their sleep and or appetite may change. They may suddenly begin talking about divorce or separation.
Women attempt suicide more often than men, but the rate of completed suicide in men is 4 times that of women. Suicide rates peak in mid life and again later in life. Men age 85 and older have the highest suicide rate.
Men want and need to be strong for their families; they don't want to appear weak or vulnerable. If they are the primary bread winner, they can feel pressure to provide for their dependents. Of course, these general statements can be applied to women as well.
Depression in men is treatable. If you suspect a friend or loved one may be depressed, urge them to seek a professional evaluation. There are many options, including medication, therapy or a combination of the two.
By Gabrielle J. Melin, M.D.