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DEPRESSION – THE REAL DIFFERENCE BETWEEN MEN AND WOMEN

Many of the articles that you read online insist that there’s a big difference between depression in men and women.  They imply that depression affects us differently – but that’s not really the case.

Depression is as debilitating for women as it is for men and they carry almost twice the risk of developing it.  However, the number of deaths by suicide in men outnumbers that in women.  Counting the cost of depression by analysing statistics is not some morbid, gender competition, of course.  The way depression makes men and women feel may be very similar.  The way we react to it, express it, show it symptomatically, is usually very different.

Don’t believe everything you read out there in the ether.  Men do not necessarily feel ‘more depressed’ than women with the condition.  Depression affects all of us equally.  It’s how we react to it that makes the difference to suicide statistics.  How we react to depression can be read by our symptoms – and there is one difference that leaps out at us on that score.

HOW MEN AND WOMEN REACT DIFFERENTLY TO DEPRESSION:

Women tend to ‘ruminate’ more than men – going around and around in the same thought cycle and indulging in very damaging self-talk.  They often blame themselves for their feelings and make them all the worse.

Men are generally more able to distract themselves and avoid becoming locked into such a negative thought cycle.  However, our choice of distraction is often destructive in itself.  Many of us workaholics, gamblers, reckless drivers and sexually promiscuous.  We’re also more prone to substance abuse than women.

Interestingly, women who turn to alcohol or drugs do so after the onset of depression, whereas men abuse it before the condition takes hold.

Jill Goldstein, the Director of Research at the Connors Centre for Women’s Health and Gender Biology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, USA, says that “although women are hit harder by depression and are more vulnerable to it because of their biology, the illness is missed more frequently in men.”[1] Friends and family of men who are depressed can easily miss the symptoms, which leaves the sufferer more vulnerable and with an even worse case.

And that’s where the biggest problem comes in.

MEN JUST DON’T TALK ENOUGH ABOUT THEIR FEELINGS

Does that sound familiar?

The longer the condition is left untreated, the more severe it becomes.  Because we men tend to be less ‘in tune’ with our moods and feelings, we talk less about them.  The frustration of being in a constantly low state drives us to ‘act’ rather than to ‘talk’ – often with impulsive, daring or aggressive behaviour.

No wonder our nearest and dearest don’t recognise the signs of depression in us.  Most people, after all, associate depression with apathy, a lack of energy, tearfulness and moroseness.

By the time help arrives, if it does, we’re in a complete mess and barely getting by with an overwhelming mental illness.  If help doesn’t arrive, we are in direct danger of suicidal thoughts and, according to research, we are more likely than women to be successful when we attempt to take our lives.[2]

TALK ABOUT DEPRESSION

There needs to be far more discussion online and in the media of the facts surrounding depression in men.  With suicide rates so high, why don’t more people know how to spot the danger signs in men?  Men and women need to be better educated about the symptoms and effects of depression in both genders:  how differently we behave when we’re struggling with our mental health.

What’s more, we need to learn how to identify and express our feelings better.  We might not ‘ruminate’ as well as women do but we’re capable of speaking about events and situations that upset us.

That’s a really good place to start.  What’s happening at work?  What’s going on at home?  Who’s bullied you, hurt you or left you?  Practicing self-expression through talking is your right; nobody will think badly of you for speaking about yourself.  Remember, if you want to get better you need treatment; if you need treatment, you must be diagnosed; in order to be diagnosed, you need to speak about yourself.  So, get practicing!

This is where a good friend, a trusted relative or a professional counsellor comes in.  It’s the first step – possibly the most important one – of your path to full recovery.  Full recovery from depression is not only very achievable, it’s what you deserve, too.

If you’re struggling with depression, the chances are you don’t know it yet.  If you’re feeling compelled to act in the ways described above in reaction to feeling low, sit up and take notice.  Talking about that – and only that, not the ‘whys’ and ‘hows’ – to somebody who is a good listener will immediately help you to get a much-needed, different perspective.  Something might be happening to you that you need to recognise before it gets any bigger.

LISTENING TO SOMEONE WITH DEPRESSION

If you’re not in that situation but somebody’s face has popped into your mind as you’ve been reading this article, then find a way to start the conversation and be that listener.

Several years ago, I attempted suicide and mercifully spoke to my friend and confidant, Alex; if you’ve read my book, “Suicide To Success”[3], you’ll know how he helped me to turn my life around.  I charge you to “Be An Alex” to that person you’re thinking about now.

Again, you don’t need to give any ‘whys’ or ‘hows’; essentially, you just need to listen.  If you can help this man start to talk about what is going on inside that’s making him behave as he does, then you’ve potentially saved his life.  That’s no exaggeration.  You get to be a real-life hero – quietly, assuredly and comfortingly, without even wearing your underpants on the outside of your trousers.

Go on – be an Alex and get someone who’s suffering to start talking!

[1] https://www.livescience.com/15658-mental-illness-women-men-differences.html
[2] https://www.livescience.com/health
[3] External link to Amazon book sales page

 

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