How to Tell if Your Guy is Depressed
New research suggests depression is just as common in men as in women—but the signs look very different
You’ve probably heard it before: Women are way more likely to be depressed than men. Up until now, most of the research has confirmed this. But a new study published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry points to a different explanation—men show different symptoms of depression than women do, and when these are factored into the equation, men are just as likely as women to meet the criteria for depression.
Closing the Gender Gap Using data from the National Comorbidity Survey Replication (a large, nationally-representative sample), researchers found that depressed men were more likely to show signs of anger, substance use, and risk-taking behavior, while women were more likely to exhibit symptoms classically associated with depression—like sadness, depressed mood, social isolation, and sleep disturbances.
“It’s not that men totally don’t exhibit classic depression symptoms,” says lead study author Lisa Martin, Ph.D., assistant professor at the University of Michigan, Dearborn, who explains that the top symptom for men was also a depressed mood. “But they’re at odds with this strong sense of masculinity,” she says. So most depressed men are less likely to cry or lie around moping in bed. Instead, they’re more apt to lash out or turn to drugs and alcohol.
So the researchers expanded the criteria for depression to include both the usual symptoms and these typically male symptoms. When they did, the gender gap pretty much disappeared, with 30.6 percent of men and 33.3 percent of women meeting the criteria for depression.
Diagnosing Male Depression Based on this research, it’s possible that men are just as prone to depression as women are—but the stigma likely won’t disappear overnight. “We still know men are much less likely to seek help than women are, even men who will tell you that they’re feeling depressed,” says Martin.
So how can you spot the signs in your guy? Pay attention to major changes in mood (like being withdrawn, angry, or overly pessimistic about others—especially if it’s out of the ordinary) and changes in behavior (like suddenly taking up gambling, spending more time at the bar, or doing things solo that he used to do with others). Another sign could be compulsive behaviors like throwing himself into work or exercising nonstop. “If your mind or body is constantly occupied, you don’t have to deal with what’s going on inside,” says Martin.
When you’re ready to talk to a man in your life about their potential depression, be prepared for defensiveness. Don’t bring it up when he’s irritable or angry, and try to talk about it indirectly first, rather than accusing him outright of being depressed, says Martin. You can try asking about specific symptoms you’ve noticed, like that they’re drinking more than usual or seem to be more aggressive these days. “You may have to talk around the subject because it’s a touchy one,” says Martin. “Many people just think men don’t really get depression, so we have to be creative in the language and approaches we use.”
Health and Wellness Associates