The facts about men and depression
An estimated six million men in the United States have a depressive disorder every year:
- major depression
- dysthymia (chronic, less severe depression)
- bipolar disorder (manic-depressive illness)
Although these illnesses are highly treatable, many men do not recognize, acknowledge, or seek help for their depression.
While both men and women may develop the standard symptoms of depression, they often experience depression differently and may have different ways of coping. Men may be more willing to report fatigue, irritability, loss of interest in work or hobbies, and sleep disturbances rather than feelings of sadness, worthlessness, and excessive guilt, which are commonly associated with depression in women. Also, tragically, four times as many men as women die by suicide, even though women make more suicide attempts during their lives.
“I’d drink and I’d just get numb. I’d get numb to try to numb my head. I mean, we’re talking many, many beers to get to that state where you could shut your head off, but then you wake up the next day and it’s still there. Because you have to deal with it, it doesn’t just go away. It isn’t a two hour movie and then at the end it goes ‘The End’ and you press off. I mean it’s a twenty four hour a day movie and you’re thinking there is no end. It’s horrible.”
-Patrick McCathern, First Sergeant, U.S. Air Force, Retired
Men are more likely than women to report alcohol and drug abuse or dependence in their lifetime.14 Substance use can mask depression, making it harder to recognize depression as a separate illness that needs treatment.
Instead of acknowledging their feelings, asking for help, or seeking appropriate treatment, men may turn to alcohol or drugs when they are depressed, or become frustrated, discouraged, angry, irritable, and, sometimes, violently abusive. Some men deal with depression by throwing themselves compulsively into their work, attempting to hide their depression from themselves, family, and friends. Other men may respond to depression by engaging in reckless behavior, taking risks, and putting themselves in harm’s way.
“When I was feeling depressed I was very reckless with my life. I didn’t care about how I drove. I didn’t care about walking across the street carefully. I didn’t care about dangerous parts of the city. I wouldn’t be affected by any kinds of warnings on travel or places to go. I didn’t care. I didn’t care whether I lived or died and so I was going to do whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. And when you take those kinds of chances, you have a greater likelihood of dying.”
-Bill Maruyama, Lawyer
The truth is, depression is a real and treatable illness. It can strike at any age, from childhood into late life. With proper diagnosis and treatment, the vast majority of men with depression can be helped.