The Differences Between Male and Female Depression

Just as there are two life forces in the natural world, the outer-directed dynamic and the inner directed magnetic, I believe there are dynamic depressions which are expressed by “acting out” our inner turmoil and magnetic depressions which are expressed by “acting in” our pain. Men are more likely to experience dynamic depressions and women are more likely to experience magnetic depressions.

Women often express their depression by blaming themselves. Men often express their depression by blaming others—their wives, bosses, the economy, the government—Anyone or anything, but themselves. [i]

I have developed a chart to describe the main differences in the ways males and females experience depression. I want to emphasize that this is a short-hand summary of thousands of people I have seen. Most depressed people will find they identify with some things on both sides of the chart. Some men will find themselves predominantly on the magnetic side and some women will find themselves predominantly on the dynamic side. However, most depressed men, I believe, will identify more with the dynamic depressions and most women will identify more with the magnetic depressions.

Magnetic depression (Female)
Dynamic depression (Male)

Blame themselves for problems

Feel sad and tearful

Sleeps more than usual

Vulnerable and easily hurt

Tries to be nice

Withdraws when feeling hurt

Often suffers in silence

Feels they were set up to fail

Slowed down and nervous

Maintains control of anger/ May have anxiety attacks

Overwhelmed by feelings

Lets others violate boundaries

Feels guilty for what they do

Uncomfortable receiving praise

Accepts weaknesses and doubts

Strong fear of success

Needs to "blend in" to feel safe

Uses food, friends, and "love" to self-medicate

Believe their problems could be solved if only they could be a better… (spouse, co-worker, parent, friend)

Wonders, "Am I loveable enough?"

Blame others for problems

Feel irritable and unforgiving

Has trouble sleeping or staying asleep

Suspicious and guarded

Overtly or covertly hostile

Attacks when feeling hurt

Over-reacts, often sorry later

Feels the world is set up to fail them

Restless and agitated

Loses control of anger/ May have sudden attacks of rage

Feelings blunted, often numb

Rigid boundaries; pushes others away

Feels ashamed for who they are

Frustrated if not praised enough

Denies weaknesses and doubts

Strong fear of failure

Needs to be "top dog" to feel safe

Uses alcohol, TV, sports, and “sex” to self medicate

Believe their problems could be solved if only their… (spouse, co-worker, parent, friend) would treat them better

Wonders, "Am I being loved enough?"

Tom Golden, an expert on male emotions and author of Swallowed by a Snake: The Gift of the Masculine Side of Healing recognizes that the ways men and women deal with their emotions, particularly those of loss, may be quite different. Women often express their emotions through talk and tears. Men often express them through action and reflection. The kinds of actions men engage are often related to creativity, thinking, and practicality Golden believes.

“Eric Clapton used creativity in writing a song about his four-year-old son who died in a tragic accident,” says Golden. “C. S. Lewis wrote A Grief Observed which to this day is a classic in the grief literature. Mr. Lewis used his strength in writing and in thinking to do something that honored his wife and helped others.”

“Michael Jordan used his experience as an athlete when he dedicated his season on the Chicago Bulls in memory of his murdered father. Remember the championship where Jordan fell to the floor after the Bulls won the game and was tearful and holding the basketball at mid-court? It turns out that this was the season he had dedicated to his father and they won the championship. Additionally, the game was won on Father's Day, which sharpened and amplified the emotion surrounding his efforts to honor his father.”

Men and women often do not understand the ways each expresses loss and grief. Many men see women as dwelling on the past since they continue to talk and sometimes cry when they remember a loss. Women often feel that men are denying their emotions when the men say little and throw themselves into action. We all need to understand and be more accepting of male/female differences in emotional expression. Of course these differences don’t apply to all men or all women.

I tend to think of these kinds of male/female differences the same way I think of height. What do we mean when we say, “Men are taller than women?” We mean most men are taller than most women. We do not mean all men are taller than all women. As a man who is 5 feet 5 inches tall, I am constantly reminded of that fact. There are a lot of women who are taller than I am. So think of the above chart as a guide to help us explore the general differences between male and female depression.

©2010 Jed Diamond

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Jed Diamond is the internationally best-selling author of seven books including Male Menopause, now translated into 17 foreign languages and his latest book, The Irritable Male Syndrome: Managing. The 4 Key Causes of Depression and Aggression. For over 38 years he has been a leader in the field of men's health. He is a member of the International Scientific Board of the World Congress on Men’s Health and has been on the Board of Advisors of the Men’s Health Network since its founding in 1992. His work has been featured in major newspapers throughout the United States including the New York Times, Boston Globe, Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, and USA Today. He has been featured on more than 1,000 radio and T.V. programs including The View with Barbara Walters, Good Morning America, Inside Edition, CBS, NBC, and Fox News, To Tell the Truth, Extra, Leeza, Geraldo, and Joan Rivers. He also did a nationally televised special on Male Menopause for PBS. He looks forward to your feedback. E-Mail. You can visit his website at

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