While clinical depression was once considered a "woman's disease," more than 6 million men in the U.S. have depression each year. Unfortunately, the lingering image of depression as a female condition may keep men who are clinically depressed from recognizing the symptoms of depression and seeking treatment.
Depression actually affects both sexes. It disrupts relationships and interferes with work and daily activities. The symptoms of depression in men are similar to the symptoms of depression in women. But men tend to express those symptoms differently. Common symptoms of depression include loss of interest in usually pleasurable activities, fatigue, changes in appetite, sleep disturbances, and apathy. In women, depression may be more likely to cause feelings of sadness and worthlessness. Depression in men, on the other hand, may be more likely to cause them to become withdrawn or to feel irritable, aggressive, or hostile.
Seeking help for depression -- and following through with antidepressant medication -- is a courageous and important first step on the road to recovery. But too often, those who take that step find themselves faced with another troubling problem: weight gain.
Experts say that for up to 25% of people, most antidepressant medications -- including the popular SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) drugs like Lexapro, Paxil, Prozac, and Zoloft -- can cause a weight gain of 10 pounds or more.
There are several reasons why the symptoms of clinical depression in men are not commonly recognized. For example, men tend to deny having problems because they are supposed to "be strong." And American culture suggests that expressing emotion is largely a feminine trait. As a result, men who are depressed are more likely to talk about the physical symptoms of their depression -- such as feeling tired --- rather than symptoms related to emotions.
Does depression in men affect sexual desire and performance?
Yes. Depression in men can affect sexual desire and performance. Unfortunately, some antidepressants and other medications can do the same. Men often are unwilling to admit to problems with their sexuality. Many mistakenly feel that the problems are related to their manhood, when, in fact, they are caused by a medical problem such as clinical depression.
What are some observable symptoms of depression in men?
Men are less likely to show more "typical" signs of depression such as sadness. Depression in men may cause them to keep their feelings hidden. Instead of expressing a depressed mood, they may seem more irritable and aggressive.
For these reasons, many men -- as well as doctors and other health care professionals -- may fail to recognize the problem as depression.