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Am I Depressed?: How Symptoms May Vary

Depression is not experienced the same universally. Each person will experience depression, or any mental health condition, within the context of their own lives, their own physical bodies and their unique thought and behavior patterns. This means that while depression comes with sets of signs and symptoms, a person does not have to experience all of these to be diagnosed, and he or she may experience additional, unique symptoms that do not make it on to most generalized lists. Depression symptoms can also arise as a result of other medical conditions, so treating just surface symptoms or signs can leave other mental and physical health complications untreated and still present to create additional feelings of depression.

Men and Depression

As broad a factor as gender is, gender alone complicates how depression is expressed and felt. The Mayo Clinic[1] explains that men may have stereotypical depression symptoms such as feeling down, feeling lethargic and no longer enjoying certain activities, but, “Other behaviors in men that could be signs of depression – but not recognized as such – include:

  • Escapist behavior, such as spending a lot of time at work or on sports
  • Alcohol or substance abuse
  • Controlling, violent or abusive behavior
  • Irritability or inappropriate anger
  • Risky behavior, such as reckless driving

Because these behaviors could be signs of or might overlap with other mental health issues, professional help is the key to an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.” A man who drinks too much and is angry may not connect these symptoms to depression, but depression may be at the root of his problems. However substance abuse also creates depressive symptoms, and it may be the substance abuse at the heart of the problem rather than depression or depression alone. Talking with and getting a diagnosis from a medical or mental health professional can help unravel symptoms and find their true causes. Learning the “why” behind symptoms means moving forward and finding the right treatment that leads to both mental and physical health.

Hormones and Depression

Women are considered more at risk for depression than men. This may be because they are more willing to seek help and get a diagnosis, or because their symptoms tend to express themselves in more expected ways than in some men. It may also be related to hormone fluctuations that are specific to women. The National Institute of Mental Health[2] (NIH) explains, “Hormones directly affect the brain chemistry that controls emotions and mood. For example, women are especially vulnerable to developing postpartum depression after giving birth, when hormonal and physical changes and the new responsibility of caring for a newborn can be overwhelming. Some women may also have a severe form of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) called premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). PMDD is associated with the hormonal changes that typically occur around ovulation and before menstruation begins.” Childbirth and ovulation are medical factors that influence hormones and can contribute to depression symptoms. Women going through menopause may also experience depression for reasons related to changing hormones. Men may not have the same hormonal risk factors for depression, but drugs that change hormone levels including some prescription medications and steroids are linked to depression. Other medical conditions that impact hormone levels may cause depression in men or women. For example Healthline[3] explains that depression is often a symptom of hypothyroidism, a medical condition that directly affects the production of the thyroid hormone. Healthline continues, “There are no symptoms that are unique to hypothyroidism. There may be no symptoms early in the disease process.” Depression symptoms may be the only indication of this medical condition, and ignoring these symptoms or only getting mental health treatment may mean hypothyroidism or another medical condition interrupting the production of one or more hormones continues to go undiagnosed and continues to create imbalances in thought and mood.

Age and Depression

When people think of depression, they typically think of angsty teens or adults stressed by jobs, finances or family. However they should really be thinking of the elderly. WebMD[4] states, “People who are elderly are at higher risk of depression.” This higher likelihood of depression may be the result of loneliness or boredom, and it may also be related to the physical health complications that can come at any time in life but become more likely with increasing age. As mentioned previously, women may experience depression symptoms related to menopause. They may also be more likely to experience depression symptoms as they age because, as the NIH explains, “Osteoporosis—bone thinning or loss—may be associated with depression.” Age is not proof against depression and is in fact a reason to be alert for symptoms. These symptoms may be connected to medical conditions that need attention and treatment, and these symptoms may need to be addressed by a team including medical and mental health professionals. The NIH shares that older individuals, “may have more medical conditions such as heart disease, stroke, or cancer, which may cause depressive symptoms. Or they may be taking medications with side effects that contribute to depression.” Individuals can experience cancer, stroke or other medical conditions and their related depression symptoms at any time in life, but the seriousness and commonality of these increases with age. Older adults typically take more prescription medications than younger individuals and may do so with less awareness of these drugs’ potential side effects including dependence, addiction and depression. There are many reasons age and depression overlap, but all of these reasons can be treated if they receive the right diagnosis and treatment.

Medical and Mental Health Care

Find the right diagnosis and the right care. Begin by calling our toll-free helpline to learn more about how medical conditions, depression and the use of medications, drugs or alcohol are related and how they may be impacting yours or a loved one’s mental and physical health. We are here 24 hours a day to connect you to the professionals and integrated treatment programs that offer a fresh, healthy and happy start to recovery.


[1] “Male Depression: Understanding the Issues.” Mayo Clinic. 15 May 2013. Web. 1 Mar 2016.

[2] “Depression.” National Institute of Mental Health. Web. 1 Mar 2016.

[3] “Hypothyroidism: Causes, Symptoms, & Treatment.” Healthline. 7 Aug 2012. Web. 1 Mar 2016.

[4] “Recognizing and Treating Depression.” WebMD. 18 May 2015. Web. 1 Mar 2016.

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