Understanding Depression in Men and Women
It only takes a few commercial breaks from your favorite primetime TV show before advertisements for antidepressants start popping onto your screen. They are easy to spot because many employ the same formula of a middle-aged woman lying on the couch in a dark room while a serious voiceover talks about the symptoms of depression.
With commercials like these, you might think only certain people get depression. Worse, you might start to believe that depression is only experienced in a certain way.
Depression in the DSM
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) is the go-to resource for mental health experts interested in learning about a condition and accurately diagnose their patients, but even this text published by the American Psychiatric Association paints a limited picture of depression.
According to the book, you must display five or more of the following symptoms to meet criteria for major depressive disorder:
- Depressed mood.
- Lowered interest in activities or events that were previously pleasurable.
- Decreased appetite with weight loss or weight gain.
- Inability to sleep or sleeping excessively.
- Feeling sped up or slowed down.
- Low energy and feeling fatigued.
- High levels of guilt and worthlessness.
- Poorer ability to think clearly and make good decisions.
- Thoughts of death, dying, and suicide.
This is a very useful guide to narrow down and identify common symptoms and mental health concerns, but it seems incomplete at times. It only discusses depressive episodes that are straightforward and not influenced by a number of other life factors.
Depression in Real Life
In the real world, depression is as unique and individualized as the people with the condition. Because the expression of the mental illness is dependent on countless aspects, one person’s depression will appear much different than another person’s depression.
To the untrained eye, depression might present as another condition like attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety, anger issues, or bipolar disorder. People with depression can be misdiagnosed and receive improper treatment or undiagnosed and receive no treatment at all.
With poor treatments, you’ll be less likely to stick with mental health treatment. Or worse, you’ll be more likely to engage in unhealthy, negative coping skills to manage symptoms on your own.
Negative coping skills include:
- Alcohol and drug use.
- Avoidance and escape.
- Engaging in unhealthy relationships.
Does Depression Differ by Gender?
It is important to remember that one expression of depression is not “better” than the other. They are just different.
Though women are more likely to be depressed than men – at any given time, there are about three times as many depressed women as depressed men – a considerable number of men deal with depression. The problem is their depression may not always match the symptoms listed in the DSM, and it rarely matches the descriptions provided in the commercials produced by the drug companies.
In general, men experience a different type of depression. Their depression isn’t based on feelings of sadness and despair – it is based on anger, frustration, and irritability.
Rather than spending their day weeping on the couch, men might express their depression by picking verbal altercations with their loved ones. Other men will escalate their anger by instigating physical fights with strangers.
People with depression often feel like they have a “short fuse” because one minute they feel fine, and the next, they are exploding in a violent rage. In actuality, these people are just not able to see their existing levels of depression, and when the straw breaks the camel’s back, the feelings are released.
Depression in Teenagers
Men are not the only ones to display a different set of depressive symptoms. Teenagers’ signs of depression will not always fit the textbook description.
Like adult men, teenage males and females could have increased levels of irritability and frustration directed towards others in their life. They could also have higher rates of poor attention and focus, leading many towards the incorrect diagnosis of ADHD.
Identifying Your Depression
Whether you are male or female, old or young, depression represents a risk to your happiness and overall well-being. Working to identify your symptoms and seek out the appropriate treatment is of paramount importance.
If you are still not certain about your depression based on the symptoms listed above, consider a different perspective. In its core, depression is a condition that distorts your thoughts, behaviors, and feelings, so inspecting these qualities is a great way to learn more about your status.
Depression takes control of your thoughts as it attempts to make you more depressed. Rather than seeing life through an optimistic lens, depression makes everything darker, which leads to unwanted thoughts like:
- I’m not good enough.
- Everyone is out to get me.
- Everything sucks.
- I need to control the people around me.
- Things will never get better – why even try?
- Life is not worth living.
- Everybody would be better off without me.
With thoughts this negative, your behaviors will begin to follow. You might be depressed if you:
- Hit, kick, or throw things.
- Grit your teeth or clench your fists to control your feelings.
- Isolate yourself.
- Have wild changes in energy levels.
If you think there is a chance you have depression or any of these thought or behavioral changes, seek out an evaluation from a medical or mental health expert. Having depression is never a sign of failure but choosing to avoid help always is.