The Look of Depression in Men, is it Really Different?

Depression is often under diagnosed, under-treated and at times misdiagnosed in people. Because depression is not one of those conditions that look the same regardless of gender, age, ethnicity, etc., it can sometimes be hard to fully diagnose.
While the symptoms, signs and some treatments can be similar in men and women, working with each population is different.

So what are some of the challenges of working with aging men dealing with depression?
• Older men are less likely to acknowledge symptoms of depression and less likely to be treated – fear of stigma
• Older men are less likely to report emotional symptoms of depression (crying, sadness, guilt, worry, fatigue)
• Older men are more likely to see depression as a moral weakness that can be “toughed out”
• Many older men have been exposed to lifelong traditional norms: “I must be self reliant; I must be tough; I must work”
• Older men have an increased risk for suicide

Each of these factors play a role in effectively being able to diagnose, treat and help older men who are dealing with depression. This is one reason why it is so important that if someone close to you or in your inner circle is exhibiting signs of depression that you do not IGNORE IT. Often time, with men it is more about observation that verbal communication, so it is important to pay attention.

What are the symptoms in older men?
• Physical Symptoms:
• Aches, pains, stomach upset, backache, insomnia, low energy, exhaustion
• Cognitive/Affective Symptoms
• Irritability, pessimism, guilt, problems with concentration, anhedonia, restlessness, agitation
• Anxiety is a greater predictor of depression in men than in women
• Behaviors
• Isolating, arguing, blaming, attacking, difficulty initiating tasks
• Men are more impacted by loss of a spouse than women
What are the Risk Factors?
• Increase in physical health problems – cardiovascular disease, prostate cancer, chronic pain, loss of mobility, sexual dysfunction
• Heart attack – depression rates 20% with 20% more experiencing depressive symptoms
• Decreased testosterone levels
• Loss of muscle mass, weight gain, hair loss, decreased sexual functioning, anxiety, increased risk for depression
• Retirement often brings loss of connection, loss of purpose, loss of structure, lower self-worth
As important as it is to identify and recognize the signs and symptoms of depression in older men, it is even more important that treatment is given to those who are dealing with this issue.

Treating Older Men with Depression: (Taken from Robertson, J. A counselors guide to working with men)
• Relating
• Relinquishing
• Reinventing
• Attunement – feeling understood
• Empathy – identify with his experience
Treating Older Men with Depression: Relinquishing
• Loss anticipation – hearing, depression, unexplained weight loss, vision, chronic conditions, cognition, balance, stereotypes
• Loss counseling – activate mourning, reviewing, compensating, manage emotions, foster resilience, find humor
• Identify strengths– emotional stability, overall happiness, active lifestyle, spiritual interests, personal attributes
• Reinvention strategies– savoring, expanding, socializing, exercising, reflecting, generatively
If you know of an aging man who is experiencing these signs or symptoms or is dealing with depression, get them help today!

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