The common misconception that depression only affects women may have begun with "hysteria" — a 2000-year-old "medical condition" (now mostly considered a "legacy" disease) that supposedly affected only women. Its symptoms included inability to sleep and loss of appetite, much like the symptoms linked to depression today.
This stigma has lasted for decades. Although you won't find female hysteria in many medical textbooks, the stereotype has not only hurt women but men as well. A new study by the journal JAMA Psychiatry has found that the reason so many more women than men are diagnosed with depression is not something innate to being female — it's due to a difference in symptoms between the sexes.
Women's symptoms tend to be more based in sadness, and involve feelings of hopelessness, guilt, or worthlessness and a loss in interest in things they once found pleasurable. Men's symptoms are more often based more in anger and aggression.
Whether the differences are a result of socialization or not remains to be seen, but this much is clear: moving away from the myth of "the depressed woman" helps men too. So what does depression look like in men?
1. Anger attacks
Men suffering from depression are more likely to lash out at others. Father of psychiatry Sigmund Freud described depression as rage turned inward; but the study found otherwise. Depressed men are more likely to turn their rage toward others, including friends, co-workers, and loved ones.
2. Aggression or irritability
Male depression is more likely to present through irritable or angry moods. Once these symptoms were included in the diagnostic criteria, significantly more men were found to have suffered from a depressive episode in their lifetime.
3. Substance abuse
Substance abuse is another externalizing symptom — as opposed to internalizing symptoms that have always been used to qualify depression — and it is more common in men.
4. Risk-taking behavior
Men are also more likely to take part in risky behaviors when they're depressed — also known as escapist behavior.
In contrast to the sad and listless moods many depressed women encounter, some depressed men may experience difficulty sitting still and focusing on one task, or may feel fidgety or jumpy.