This isn’t exactly a revolutionary statement, but men and women experience depression differently. Gender differences and the topic of “toxic masculinity” have received quite a bit of press lately, and this is an area I think is absolutely worth exploring. Do men experience depression differently then women? Do they then show those differently Because of the way we socialize the genders, are men more likely to experience and express depression differently and in ways which we would consider to be more stereotypical?
According to the available research, yes, absolutely.
An October 2013 study found that men experience depression in a manner which is “different than what is included in the current diagnostic criteria.” The results of the study found that men are more likely to experience anger, aggression, substance abuse and risk taking when depressed. These symptoms are not used when diagnosing depression, but are outside of currently accepted diagnostic criteria.
Even more interestingly: When alternative (but accepted) measures are used to diagnose depression, the study found that men and women experience depression in relatively equal proportions.
Other reviews have come to similar conclusions. In this article in VeryWellMind, it was noted that women express depression by becoming more visibly emotional, while men become “more rigid” and less emotional. An article in University Health News noted that symptoms of depression experienced by men often involve “having symptoms that are not usually considered in the diagnosis of depression.”
What does this tell us? Men and women are obviously socialized differently and express emotions in different ways. What I would love to know is the role of this socialization and how it affects depression expression – what men are more likely to experience and express depression in different ways? What women are more likely to express depression in ways which are more similar to men? That would be an interesting study.
But, the conclusions here are pretty clear. Men experience depression different then women, and that means that we have to be more aware of the gender differences between the two in order to ensure that men get the same treatment as women. I’d also argue that it means we have to ensure that we raise men differently. Men need to know it’s okay to experience and express emotions in ways which aren’t stereotypically male. Things seem to be changing in that regards, but that one is on all of us who are parents to ensure that men know there’s nothing wrong with being sad and saying as much.