28. June 2019
Depression can manifest itself in quite different ways, making it sometimes difficult to recognize, and it has been shown time and again that many men deal with the disease differently than women. Of course, we should refrain from making too broad generalizations and always consider the individual case. Nevertheless, patterns of “male” depression can be recognized, which we would like to present in this article.
Men suffer from depression just as women do. Only they often show their suffering in a different way. If they show it at all. Many men hide depression from family, friends or work for a long time. Perhaps there are signs that a man is not well, but depression? That is out of the question for many men.
This is partly due to the socialization (development) of the man. We live in a society in which there are strong role models of the sexes even in today’s enlightened times. We grow up with these role models from an early age and they become a part of our thinking, feeling and acting. The male gender is often confronted with sentences like:
Feelings are communicated much less frequently among men than among women. So it’s no wonder that many men are more insecure in dealing with their own feelings. Of course, it also plays a role for women how openly feelings, both positive and negative, were talked about in their upbringing.
Being the ever-strong provider – that’s what some men have taken for granted. The fact that depression limits performance is difficult to accept. In the course of a depression, men have to come to terms with their role model in a completely different way and put many of their internalized obligations into perspective.
Studies show that in men, the left hemisphere of the brain is more active. According to neuroscientific research, this half of the brain stands more for analytical and planning thinking. Creative and emotional thinking and holism take place more in the right brain (Schaeffer & Manke, 2018). This fact also makes it more difficult for men to perceive and classify feelings.
Men tend to communicate through actions. When stressed, they tend to be more externalizing, i.e. outwardly directed behavior, than women: Outbursts of anger, aggression, and loud discussions are more likely to be observed in men. In depression, too, the man may be more likely to be highly irritable, to throw himself into work, to put himself in danger by risky behavior, and to have predominant feelings of anger and resentment.
Especially in relation to the workplace, it should be mentioned that some men prefer the diagnosis Burnout, as this is almost a seal of extreme commitment at work. Here, however, the clear classification should always be observed that a burnout can really be attributed exclusively to too much stress at work.
Now that we’ve learned why “male” depression can be special, the following symptoms show when you should take a closer look at yourself or your partner/relative:
But of course, you should also be alert for typical depression symptoms:
If a man shows symptoms that indicate depression, this should be addressed. Initial resistance is to be expected, but once the topic is on the table, things can move in the right direction. The affected person may be confronted with the topic for the first time and can then find out more on his own.
As always, the most important rules of conversation apply here, such as listening, understanding and appreciation. Perhaps you can agree on a period of time in the first conversation, in which the behavior is observed more closely and after which you talk to each other again. Hasty advice as well as accusations can be rather counterproductive. Here are some more tips for talking to affected people.
Therapy for depression in men and women is broadly the same. Psychotherapy has been shown to be effective. For more severe forms of depression, this is combined with medication. As mentioned above, role conceptions are often an issue in therapy. Admitting to oneself that weak sides also belong and that the affected person is nevertheless too strong can take a while.
A frightening topic must not be left out in connection with men and depression. Suicide rates among depressed men are three times higher than among depressed women (Wittchen & Hoyer, 2006). Thus, men are more likely to put into action the suicidal thoughts that occur in the course of major depression than women. Therefore, it is important to pay special attention to the signs of suicidality!
The mental health is fortunately given more and more space in the public. The taboo of “depression” must be broken down so that those affected can seek the treatment they need more quickly. This applies to all patients, but also especially to men.
Let us overcome role stereotypes and grant every person, completely detached from their gender identity, the right to psychological well-being. Men can be affected by depression just as much as women. We would like to see more attention paid to this issue and more people made aware of it. After all, depression is easily treatable, whether it affects men or women!