What Makes Male Depression Different

There is a stereotype of what depression looks like. We believe it has to be lots of crying, feelings of worthlessness, reduced appetite, excessive sleeping, isolating and being low all the time. To clarify, Jyotika Aggarwal, DHA Licensed Clinical Psychologist in Dubai discusses the red flags of male depression.

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Facts versus stereotypes

According to Aggarwal, there is a stereotype of what depression looks like. “We believe it has to be lots of crying, feelings of worthlessness, reduced appetite, excessive sleeping, isolating and being low all the time.” While these are true and an important part of depression, for men, she explains that depression can look very different and this is the very reason why it may often be missed. She elaborates, “In men, it may manifest with symptoms like increase in fatigue, increased irritability and anger, sometimes they may become abusive in nature, loss of interest in work or hobbies, and difficulty in falling asleep.” Research also suggests that men use more substances, possibly as a form of self-medication. This can hide the symptoms of depression, making it harder to detect and treat effectively.

Less likely to reach out and seek help

Research suggests that men are not likely to accept their symptoms as depression hence, less likely to accept or seek help, points out Aggarwal. “Men find it hard to admit that they are going through any sort of difficulty let alone mental health concerns,” she says, and men are usually uncomfortable with any sign of weakness within themselves and may be afraid of being judged as a lesser man. Culturally, men are also not taught how to respond to their feelings of negativity, discomfort, or feelings of being low. “They believe they don’t even need to learn and can figure out a way to deal with this.”

Societal and cultural expectations play a role

Society and cultural beliefs also play a large role in this, she suggests. “Men, from time immemorial are required to be ‘strong’, which in turn pushes them to suppress any emotions that make them vulnerable,” she says; they are told from childhood ‘boys don’t cry’, and as they grow older, they are told to ‘get over it’. A manly framework is culturally depicted by the elders, explains Aggarwal, and the men have to abide by it. “They get so stuck to this reality that the world has built for them, that they may lose sight of their own emotional difficulties,” she says. “Many cultures associate respect with being manly and those men, who seek help often or may show an emotional side, are often judged in a negative light and not seen as reliable.” Men greatly fear such rejection and judgment, thus making it harder for them to seek help for their depression and anxiety.

How depression impacts men

When depressed, men’s daily life and the way they process situations changes, she says. “It can interfere with their productivity, negatively impact their relationships, and have sudden changes in their eating and sleeping patterns,” she says, and they are likely to be more on the edge, snap faster, and feel more anger. They are internally upset with themselves for not feeling ‘normal’ and feeling emotional discomfort, hence any small incident or conversation can provoke them. “In trying to tackle this situation, men may start avoiding family situations, become workaholics, start controlling, and become abusive in relationships,” she tells.

Expert advice

Aggarwal points out that the most important thing to remember is we are all human. “We all need support and compassion sometimes and we must not let external, dogmatic thoughts rule us to a point, that it becomes harmful for us,” she says, reminding us that it’s important to open doors for healthy and meaningful actions which help a person live their best life. H

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