Men are from Mars and women are from Venus, as the saying goes, underscoring real differences between men and women in how we communicate, interpret information, and respond to situations. While these differences between men and women provide plenty of fodder for comedy routines, they are no laughing matter when it comes to serious health issues such as depression.
It may come as no surprise to discover that men and women experience depression differently, are diagnosed differently, and experience different outcomes during treatment. Unfortunately, depression in men is often missed entirely, misdiagnosed, or treated as a physical health concern rather than a mental health issue.
June is Men’s Health Awareness Month. In addition to physical health issues, mental health issues in men are also important to recognize, with the goal of helping more men find treatment and help.
Men Are Less Likely To Be Diagnosed With Depression
Women are twice as likely to be diagnosed with depression as men, but it is not necessarily the case that women are twice as likely to experience depression as men. Source
Men are typically more reluctant to access healthcare overall, making them less likely to be diagnosed. About six million American men suffer from depression every year. Yet research shows that men are far less likely than women to seek help for all mental-health problems, but even more so for depression. Source
When men do visit a doctor, their symptoms may be missed as signs of depression because they look different than depressive symptoms in women.
“Women with depression may come in crying; men may come in acting out in anger,” says Andrew Angelino, M.D., Chair of Psychiatry at Howard County General Hospital. “We’ve taught boys that they don’t cry; so instead of crying, they get angry and threatening. Source
Because depression looks different in men, it is more likely to be missed by family members and health care providers. Men often progress to a case of severe depression before it is first recognized and diagnosed, making it all the more difficult to treat.
How Men Cope With Depression
Research is just beginning to explore the idea of a “male-based depression”, with distinct characteristics from depression in women. Early findings suggest that men may express their depression by showing increased fatigue, irritability and anger (which can turn abusive), through a loss of interest in work or hobbies, and sleep disturbances. Source
Men dealing with depression may try to cope through overwork, hoping that by burying themselves in work they can avoid the unpleasant symptoms of depression. Men may also turn their focus to other time-consuming outlets, such as TV, gaming, sports or other entertainment that occupies significant time. Others may intentionally expose themselves to harm via risky behavior, such as gambling, smoking, unsafe sex or driving recklessly.
Men may drink heavily or turn to illegal drugs as a coping mechanism just prior to the onset of depression, making drinking or drug-seeking behavior a potential early warning sign of depression in men. In women, substance abuse tends to occur after the onset of depression.
Recognizing Depression in Men
One of the reasons men may go undiagnosed for depression is because depression in men has both physical and emotional/mental symptoms. When men visit their doctor, they may focus on the physical symptoms of depression (because there is less stigma associated) and hide or minimize the emotional or mental symptoms they are experiencing.
Because the doctor only has partial information available, the doctor provides a wrong diagnosis and a treatment plan that focuses on alleviating physical pain rather than addressing depression as the root cause of the symptoms.
Some of the physical symptoms of depression in men include:
- Joint, limb, or back pain
- Excessive sleep or inability to sleep (insomnia)
- Feeling restless or agitated
- Digestive problems
- Unintentional weight loss
Some of the behavioral symptoms of depression in men include:
- Excessive drinking
- Illegal drug use or drug-seeking behavior
- Avoiding family or social situations
- Lack of motivation
- Losing interest in hobbies or personal pursuits
- Working obsessively
- Eating too much or too little
- Controlling or abusive behavior
- Anger and Irritability
- Engaging in risk-taking behavior, such as gambling or unsafe sex
- Loss of sex drive or performance
If you recognize these symptoms in yourself or in a partner or family member, you should visit a psychiatrist or mental health nurse practitioner to receive an evaluation and diagnosis. During the visit, make sure to discuss the full range of symptoms you may be experiencing, and avoid minimizing emotional or behavioral symptoms. While discussing physical symptoms with your mental health provider is important, your provider will be better able to provide an accurate diagnosis when all symptoms are identified.
Depression Treatment for Men in Utah
Even after being diagnosed with depression, many men resist treatment out of a sense of shame or wanting to preserve a self-image of toughness. Men can also become non-compliant with taking prescribed medication. Antidepressants, in particular, can produce negative side effects such as weight gain, loss of libido, sexual dysfunction, or a general brain fog – side effects that many men find simply unacceptable.
The good news for men dealing with depression in Utah is that other treatments are available that do not produce the negative side effects and do not require ongoing compliance with taking medication. Two popular depression treatments that are now available in Utah include ketamine and TMS.
Ketamine is an anesthetic drug with powerful antidepressant properties. Ketamine is fast-acting, with many patients experiencing significant relief from depressive symptoms within hours of receiving the first treatment. Ketamine is administered through an IV while the patient relaxes in a comfortable environment. A typical ketamine treatment requires six total sessions.
Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is an interventional psychiatric treatment that treats the brain directly through electromagnetic stimuli. It is FDA-approved in the U.S. for treatment of depression, major depressive disorder, anxious depression, and OCD.
TMS is a daily treatment administered over several weeks. Appointments last 20-30 minutes and patients are able to return to work immediately after treatment, making it a great treatment option even for those with busy schedules.
Ketamine and TMS are both effective depression treatments that do not carry the same side effects or stigma of taking antidepressants. Often, men find these treatments to be more palatable than taking antidepressants or going to therapy to cure depression.
To find out if these innovative depression treatments are right for you (or a partner), please call Ampelis Health at 435-776-5909 to schedule an appointment.