How Depression Affects Men and Women Differently

By: Jayson Tripp, MD


You’ve probably heard the term “mental illness”, perhaps associated with someone you love, or perhaps thrown out as an insult in a conversation at some point. One of the most common misconceptions is that mental illness is all in your head, while it really is an illness just like any other. Depression is one of the most prevalent mental illnesses in society, affecting 17.3 million adults  in the United States (2017 data), or roughly 7.1% of all adults in the country.

Like most physical ailments, depression and other mental health issues affect men and women differently. Today we’ll touch on a few ways that depression affects men and women differently and ways to best combat depression regardless of who you are. (For the purposes of this article, men and women are defined by biological features, but we would like to acknowledge that we realize not all biological men or biological women define themselves by their biology and biology is not the sole definition of gender .)

According to Paul R. Albert, from the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, prevalence of clinical depression is higher in women than men . While there are many theories for why this is, Paul concludes that the main factor for this is that hormonal fluctuations are likely to trigger depressive episodes. Another possible explanation is because of the differences in how men and women process painful emotions like depression.

One of these differences is how much each gender dwells on what they are feeling. Women are more likely to rehash their negative emotions and thoughts for an extended time period, prolonging the feeling, while men are more likely to find a way to distract themselves from the negative emotions they are feeling. Distracting oneself is considered a healthy way to cope with depression, although not all methods of distraction are recommended. On the other hand, dwelling on negative emotions often results in more visible symptoms, such as crying and breakdowns.

Because of how noticeable the symptoms of depression are in women, and how difficult they can be to recognize in men, more women pursue treatment. Perhaps for this same reason, more men attempt suicide  and of all those that attempt, more men are successful.

So what can you do to help make sure that the men and women in your life receive the best care possible to help them take back their lives from these difficult emotions?

First, let your loved ones know you are safe to talk to, and when you are feeling depressed, reach out to others. Especially for men, it can be difficult to open up about feelings they believe they should be strong enough to fight off. There is a lot of stigma associated with an admission of depression . Depression is nothing to be ashamed of, so let your loved ones know that you are there for them no matter what they are feeling and you won’t think any less of them. On a similar note, if you are fighting depression, find someone you feel comfortable talking with.

Second, familiarize yourself with the symptoms of depression. Whether you are feeling depressed yourself or supporting someone who has depression, it’s important to know what to look out for. As we mentioned before, symptoms of depression in men  and symptoms of depression in women  can look drastically different, so take time to research what is most applicable to your situation.

Third, take time to figure out a plan. There are many ways to combat depression, so figure out a few things you or your loved one can do that help them feel better. Sometimes starting to improve the state of your mental health is as simple as remembering to eat three meals a day, or taking time to do something relaxing each day. Remember, it’s okay to ask for help if you need it.

Fourth and finally, seek treatment if you need it. Depression is an illness, and just like any illness, sometimes you and your body can’t fight it off without a doctor or other professionals help. There are thousands of treatments available, from traditional methods like therapy , counseling, and medication, to newer methods like TMS  (Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation) and acupuncture. Serenity Mental Health Centers is one of many possible providers for treatment devoted to helping you take back your life from mental illness. Learn more about possible treatment options in our blogpost, 5 Types of Treatments to Improve Your Mental Health .

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*All information subject to change. Images may contain models. Individual results are not guaranteed and may vary.