Why is depression harder to recognise in some men?

Depression is a serious condition that can have devastating consequences if left untreated.  So if depression in men is a common condition, why are so many men frequently left to fend for themselves? With their depression left undiagnosed?  Unlike female depression, male depression seems to be a well-kept secret in Australia. It is largely unrecognised by men and their families.  Doctors and mental health professionals also have difficulty identifying depression in men. Below are some of the reasons why men are left to battle depression by themselves.


  1. The symptoms of depression in men are different from the “sad mood” which typifies it in women.
  2. Men typically resist seeking help, and male friends avoid intimate and ‘unmanly’ questions.
  3. Men don’t equate sexual problems with depression.
  4. Men believe that they have to be strong and have total control of their emotions.  When a man feels stressed, overwhelmed, or hopeless he’s inclined to suppress it, possibly distracting  himself with destructive behaviours such as: drinking too much, exploding with anger, behaving recklessly (eg. casual sex) or spending excessive time at work.
  5. Doctors and mental health professionals don’t always find it easy to recognise depression, especially if the patient comes to them complaining of physical rather than psychological symptoms. (Australian and international research shows that up to half the people presenting to GPs with depression or anxiety are not diagnosed, and of those that are, a significant proportion are not treated effectively).
  6. Men also worry about the stigma associated with treatment for mental health. They fear out-dated opinions that it displays weakness, causes loss of respect and standing within a man’s professional and family life.

Gender Differences in Depression

The lack of understanding and correct diagnosis of depression symptoms in men can be attributed to the dramatically different symptoms men and women experience. While men are likely to act out their depression, women typically turn it inward.

Below is a general guide of symptom differences between genders. Keep in mind that this list is general and that not all men or all women will experience every symptom. Some women may experience certain male-type depressive symptoms and some men may experience symptoms typical of overt depression more commonly experienced in women.

Symptoms in Women Symptoms in Men
Over eats in an attempt to feel better (‘comfort eating’) Uses alcohol or drugs in an attempt to feel better (‘self-medication’)
Feels sad, apathetic, worthless Anger, irritable, ego inflation
Feels anxious, frightened Feels suspicious, guarded
Assumes low status Excessively status-conscious
Allows boundary violations Over controlling
Uncomfortable with success Anxiety over perceived failure
Excessive sleep Insomnia
Avoids conflict Creates conflict
Tendency to blame self Tendency to blame others
Decreased sexual activity Increased sex in an effort to feel good
Underachieves Workaholic

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