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Am I depressed? That question is posed somewhere in the world countless times each day. Even though depression is widespread and considered a serious condition, it can manifest very differently in men and women.
While most statistics indicate that depression occurs twice as frequently in women as men, some experts suspect that men suffer from the condition much more than we recognize. However, men typically don’t show the same signs of depression as women do, and so they’re often not correctly diagnosed.
Below, we address some of the key differences in how depression affects women and men.
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Signs of Depression in Women
There’s a real gender gap when it comes to depression. Women face double the risk of the condition compared to men, in part due to hormonal differences and in part because of the way they deal emotionally with stressful life events (such as a divorce or the loss of a loved one). Depression often coexists with other health and mental conditions that have a higher prevalence in women, such as eating and anxiety disorders and multiple sclerosis.
The symptoms of depression are often different in women than they are in men, but this may be in part related to men having symptoms that are not usually considered in the diagnosis of depression. Women are more likely to experience anxiety and physical symptoms. They also tend to overeat and gain more weight.
In fact, there’s a close relationship between obesity and depression, particularly in women, and doctors may need to screen for depression more often in obese women. Obese women are nearly four times more likely to be depressed than women of normal weight. The same association doesn’t seem to be true for obese men.
Unfortunately, depression can take a big toll on women. Depression is the No. 1 cause of disability in women. Although more men actually take their own lives, women attempt suicide almost twice as often. Depression has been linked with a higher risk of coronary heart disease and of sudden cardiac death in women.
Yet despite these many risks, fewer than half of women with clinical depression ever seek treatment.
Depression in Men
Although women face double the risk, depression afflicts millions of men worldwide, and recent research suggests that men actually suffer from depression nearly as often as women but just show it in different ways.
Depression often manifests differently in men. While women tend to turn their emotions inward and feel worthless and guilty, men tend to reflect their emotions outward, sometimes becoming angry or aggressive or turning to alcohol or illicit drugs.
Because men are traditionally perceived as the stronger, more stoic gender, they are more likely to gloss over depression symptoms such as a lack of interest in life, fatigue, and low self-esteem. They might fear that revealing their condition will make them look weak or overly emotional to their family, friends, and colleagues.
Depression in women can be linked to hormonal balances, but the same is true of depression in men. New research suggests that men whose testosterone levels are in the borderline range have a higher rate of depression.
Originally published in May 2016 and updated.