Depression in men
The signs can look different for males
June 11, 2018
By Alicia Johnson
Too many of us still don’t realize that depression is common among men.
“We've come a long way but we still have a long way to go,” says Scott Aylwin, Senior Director of Operations, Addiction and Mental Health. “I don't think there is really a good understanding as to how many men suffer from depression, and there are a bunch of reasons for that.”
Women are diagnosed with depression twice as often as men, according to the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. And the Canadian Mental Health Association states that about eight per cent of adults will experience major depression at some time in their lives.
Scott says people need to be aware that men may show different symptoms of depression than women do.
Women tend to show signs more typically associated with depression, such as sadness, low mood and negative thoughts. Men, however, may turn to substance abuse, may show aggression or irritability and can have physical pain, he explains.
“A man is more likely to report that they have a drinking problem or a physical ailment than that they are struggling with depression,” says Scott.
Though it’s true that the majority of people who die by suicide suffer from depression, only a small percentage of depressed people end their lives. When it comes to those who succumb to suicide, the numbers show a stark gender difference. In Canada, about 4,000 people die by suicide each year, and males account for four of every five suicides.
“Men choose to make their attempts by means you can't come back from, such as a shotgun or motor vehicle, whereas women might be more likely to overdose on pills or self-harm,” explains Scott.
Symptoms of depression
It’s common for depressed people to lose interest in activities they once enjoyed.
Scott says men are more likely to visit a doctor to talk about an ache or pain than to talk about feelings.
Men may become aggressive or irritable when depressed.
Men tend to self-medicate through alcohol and substance abuse.
Men should seek professional help and consider a prescribed medication if they are depressed.
“Sometimes a medication can provide an improvement in mood, which then makes it easier to make positive life changes,” says Scott.
He also encourages men to try something new, such as a diet or exercise that will get them out of the house. "Try to get back into things that gave you pleasure, such as old hobbies or reconnecting with friends and family," says Scott.
“It’s sad and ironic that activity and motivation are the things that keep you out of depression, but can be the very things you don’t have when you are depressed.”
If you think someone’s depressed
People can reach out to someone they think is depressed and ask whether there’s anything they can do to help or whether the person would like to talk. “It's the less formal interventions that are ultimately more effective, because loneliness and depression go hand in hand,” says Scott.
He also says spending time with someone going through depression can be a significant help. “If you can make time in your day to support someone you care about who might be experiencing depression, that's invaluable.“