Depression and Anxiety in Men

In the year 2015, 322 million people were said to have suffered from Depression. According to the WHO, because disorders such as depression and anxiety have lower levels of recognition and access to healthcare, there is a global loss of one trillion US dollars every year. 

Men tend to be diagnosed with depression less often than women. While this could partly be attributed to genetics and biology, there are other reasons as to why men are not diagnosed with depression as often as women. 

Failure to recognize symptoms of depression in men: Men are often less likely to be diagnosed with depression because it is more likely to manifest with different primary symptoms: 

  • Physical symptoms: such as back aches, frequent headaches, digestive problems, tiredness, sleep issues and sexual dysfunction. These symptoms are largely psychosomatic, i.e., they are physical problems that are caused due to mental distress, in this case, due to depression.
  • Anger: Men are more likely than women to express anger and irritability when suffering from depression. Sometimes, this anger could turn violent, and in a few extreme cases, the person suffering from depression may become abusive. 
  • Reckless behaviour: Men suffering from depression may exhibit risky behaviour such as substance abuse or engage in activities that could potentially expose themselves or other people to harm. Men with depression are also likely to suffer from a reoccuring substance abuse disorder.

Recommended treatment for these complaints is likely to focus on alleviating the symptoms rather than addressing the underlying issue. For instance, the focus would be on treating headaches or substance abuse instead of treating the underlying depression.

Downplaying symptoms of depression:

Men are likely to downplay any symptoms of mental illness that they recognize, in order to avoid appearing weak and vulnerable. Traditionally, societal norms do not allow men to admit any sort of internal distress, and hence, men tend to ignore, suppress and mask their symptoms of depression.

Resisting treatment for mental illness

This inability to discuss their distress spills over to a reluctance to address these issues. Men suffering from depression may believe that the stigma associated with it could affect their career or social standing. This leads them to either completely deny their mental illness in the first place, or refuse to seek treatment for it, even though they may recognize that they need help. It is crucial that men suffering from depression visit a mental health professional who will be able to guide them.

In order to reduce and prevent the rapid rise of depression in India, one of the steps that can be taken is that we need to learn more about the different ways it can manifest in men and women. Understanding that men too, are susceptible to depression can aid in increasing awareness about the issue and tackling it in a more well-rounded manner. Furthermore, recognizing gender disparities in signs and symptoms can aid in providing support and treatment to populations that would otherwise be overlooked. It is important to create a culture or empathy where men are more aware about their feelings and emotions and are comfortable to share them. This will not only enable them to discuss their problems more openly but will also more importantly enable them to seek timely help.

If you or someone you know is feeling stressed, anxious, overwhelmed please do not hesitate to seek professional help.  

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