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Depression affects men and women

Being tough is a quality many men are encouraged to work towards from the time they’re young. Don’t talk about your feelings. “Man up” and get it done. 

But the idea of always being tough and acting “like a man” can be detrimental to your mental health—if you’re encouraged not to talk about your feelings or to recognize when you don’t feel like yourself, you could end up with a serious mental illness.

Depression is one of the most common mental illnesses. From 2013 to 2016, 8.1 percent of Americans over the age of 20 experienced signs of depression over a given two-week period. When left untreated, depression could lead to suicide. Men are three to four times more likely to commit suicide than women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

“Men and women can both experience depression, but the signs and symptoms of depression might be different in men and women,” says Dr. M. Justin Coffey, Chair of Geisinger's Department of Psychiatry, Addiction Medicine and Behavioral Health. “When a woman feels depressed, she might feel sad; when a man feels depressed, he might feel angry or aggressive.”

Depression and anxiety can manifest themselves in different ways, including:

  • Feeling angry, irritable or aggressive
  • Feeling sad or emotional
  • Feeling anxious or restless
  • Having a hard time sleeping, or sleeping a lot
  • Eating too much, or eating too little/not having an appetite
  • Losing interest in sex
  • Losing interest in work, family, friends and activities you once enjoyed
  • Taking part in high-risk activities, or turning to drugs or alcohol to cope.

Most men won’t experience all of the symptoms; in fact, it’s more common to experience just a few. However, if you frequently experience symptoms of depression, know that you should talk to a friend, loved one or your doctor about it.

“If you feel depressed, you likely won’t feel like you can just ‘snap out of it.’ Talk to your spouse or partner or a close friend or relative about how you’re feeling. They can help you get the help you need from your primary care doctor or a mental health professional,” says Dr. Coffey.  

Your primary care doctor can help to assess your condition. During an exam, they will likely review your medical history and ask you about your symptoms in an effort to rule out another condition that produces similar symptoms to depression. 

Your doctor will also ask you what types of symptoms you’re having, how long you’ve had them and if you’ve ever been treated for depression before. They may also ask you about your general health, such as whether you drink and smoke and how often you exercise. 

Your doctor will also ask if you have a family history of depression.

“Depression is usually caused by a combination of factors. If it runs in your family, you may be more apt to have it. But stress and illness can also play a role in depression,” says Dr. Coffey.

Depending on your symptoms and your health history, your doctor may recommend treating depression with medication, therapy or a combination of both. 

If your doctor prescribes medication, such as antidepressants, to treat your depression, you should take it exactly as it’s prescribed. 

You should also pay attention to how it makes you feel. Some side effects, such as a headache or nausea, might improve over time—but you should still let your doctor know you’re experiencing them. They may adjust your dosage or recommend another route for treatment. 

“If you’re feeling depressed, know that you’re not alone, there’s help available and the right thing to do is to talk to someone about it,” says Dr. Coffey. 

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