5 Things You Didn’t Know About Depression in Men
Both men and women will experience depression at some point in their lifetime, but men experience depression differently than what is included in the current diagnostic criteria. In this blog post, we discuss 5 things that you may not know about depression in men.
1. Men’s Symptoms of Depression are Different than Women’s
The University of Michigan examined potential symptomatic differences between men and female’s expressions of depression. This study revealed that there is a difference between the sexes: men’s depression symptoms are more likely to include anger, aggression, substance abuse, and risk-taking behavior; Whereas women were more likely than men to report experiencing stress, lack of enjoyment in activities that bring joy, difficulty sleeping, and irritability. What this means is that when assessed for affective disorders, men may report more aggressive behaviors that are actually reflective of clinical depression rather than an anger issue or conduct disorder.
2. Major Depression is Equally heritable in Men and Women
Kendler & Prescott (1999) examined different combinations of male and female twin pairs (male-male, male-female, & female-female) on the heritability of major depression between the sexes. From the study, it was found that genetics play an equal role for men and women in developing major depression during a lifetime. What this means is that on the genetic level, both sexes are equally susceptible to inherit genetic factors that can predispose them to developing major depression later in life.
3. Men May use Second or Third Person Speech when Describing Emotional Experiences
In Western culture, men are often encouraged to not express how they are feeling. In clinical practice, clinicians report the commonality of male clients tend to use second or third person speech when describing a difficult emotional situation. In a report citing an example of an interaction with a male client describing the emotional experience of not getting a desired job, the client used second-person speech instead of first: “When you don’t get your dream job, you get disappointed” instead of “I didn’t get that job I wanted and I am disappointed about it”.
Keep your ears out for this unique change in expressive language, as your client may be expressing how they feel indirectly. It also should be noted that clinical providers will want to work with their male clients on developing an emotional vocabulary that will allow them to express themselves in the first person. Limited emotional vocabulary may hinder a client’s ability to effectively express themself.
4. Issues of Grief and Loss are the Biggest Triggers of Depression in Men.
Relationship, financial, and mortal losses are triggers of depression in men throughout the lifespan. Clinical advice suggests when working with a male client who is describing an emotional situation such as a form of loss, it is advised to ask questions regarding the symptoms the client is experiencing rather than asking them outright if they are depressed. For example, you may want to ask your client “Does this situation make you feel sad?”. This is because this can cause the client to avoid discussing problems in more detail as well as other problems that they have not yet described.
5. Heavy Fast-Food and Caffeine Consumptions May Cause Mental Distress in Young Men
Young people are large consumers of fast food and caffeinated beverages. A study examining the impact of diet, exercise, lifestyle, and mental distress between young and mature men found that men who consumed fast-food and caffeinated beverages frequently were more likely to experience mental distress than those who consumed healthier food and beverage options. The study reported that men who consumed a moderate amount of nuts in their diet were less likely to experience mental distress. For clinical providers, this means that addressing a client’s diet, exercise, and lifestyle patterns during therapy sessions may be helpful in remediating depressive symptoms.
Men express and experience depression differently than what is described in diagnostic manuals. Depression in men may look like aggressive behavior, risk-taking, and substance abuse issues. On the genetic level, men and women are equally likely to inherit genetic predisposers to major depressive disorder. When describing emotional triggers such as loss, men are likely to use second or third person speech rather than first-person speech to avoid personalizing their emotions. Lastly, diet, exercise, and lifestyle patterns may be helpful targets for clinical providers to work with clients on as these areas impact not only physical well-being but mental.