YouÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve probably heard it before: Women are way more likely to be depressed than men. Up until now, most of the research has confirmed this. But a new study published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry points to a different explanationÃ¢â‚¬”men show different symptoms of depression than women do, and when these are factored into the equation, men are just as likely as women to meet the criteria for depression.
Closing the Gender Gap Using data from the National Comorbidity Survey Replication (a large, nationally-representative sample), researchers found that depressed men were more likely to show signs of anger, substance use, and risk-taking behavior, while women were more likely to exhibit symptoms classically associated with depressionÃ¢â‚¬”like sadness, depressed mood, social isolation, and sleep disturbances.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not that men totally donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t exhibit classic depression symptoms,Ã¢â‚¬Â says lead study author Lisa Martin, Ph.D., assistant professor at the University of Michigan, Dearborn, who explains that the top symptom for men was also a depressed mood. Ã¢â‚¬Å“But theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re at odds with this strong sense of masculinity,Ã¢â‚¬Â she says. So most depressed men are less likely to cry or lie around moping in bed. Instead, theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re more apt to lash out or turn to drugs and alcohol.
So the researchers expanded the criteria for depression to include both the usual symptoms and these typically male symptoms. When they did, the gender gap pretty much disappeared, with 30.6 percent of men and 33.3 percent of women meeting the criteria for depression.
Diagnosing Male Depression Based on this research, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s possible that men are just as prone to depression as women areÃ¢â‚¬”but the stigma likely wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t disappear overnight. Ã¢â‚¬Å“We still know men are much less likely to seek help than women are, even men who will tell you that theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re feeling depressed,Ã¢â‚¬Â says Martin.
So how can you spot the signs in your guy? Pay attention to major changes in mood (like being withdrawn, angry, or overly pessimistic about othersÃ¢â‚¬”especially if itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s out of the ordinary) and changes in behavior (like suddenly taking up gambling, spending more time at the bar, or doing things solo that he used to do with others). Another sign could be compulsive behaviors like throwing himself into work or exercising nonstop. Ã¢â‚¬Å“If your mind or body is constantly occupied, you donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have to deal with whatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s going on inside,Ã¢â‚¬Â says Martin.
When youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re ready to talk to a man in your life about their potential depression, be prepared for defensiveness. DonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t bring it up when heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s irritable or angry, and try to talk about it indirectly first, rather than accusing him outright of being depressed, says Martin. You can try asking about specific symptoms youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve noticed, like that theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re drinking more than usual or seem to be more aggressive these days. Ã¢â‚¬Å“You may have to talk around the subject because itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a touchy one,Ã¢â‚¬Â says Martin. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Many people just think men donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t really get depression, so we have to be creative in the language and approaches we use.Ã¢â‚¬Â
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