Symptoms of Depression in Men

4 Major Symptoms of Depression in Men: Unmasking Hidden Struggles

Writen By: Faiza Saifur
Reviewed By: Huma Khan
Publish Date: September 5, 2023

Embracing their inner strength, men today are breaking the silence surrounding depression, shining a beacon of hope on the path to mental well-being.

Depression is a serious mental health condition that can affect anyone, regardless of gender. It’s important to recognize symptoms of depression in men and understand that societal expectations, like maintaining your personality, and cultural norms, which are the standards we live by, can contribute to differences in how depression is experienced and expressed by men and women.

The CDC suggests that women are diagnosed with depression at a higher rate than men. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that men are less likely to experience depression. Rather, it might be that men are more likely to underreport or mask their symptoms due to social stigmas around seeking help for mental health issues and traditional masculine stereotypes that discourage showing openness.

Some signs and symptoms of depression in men that might be more commonly observed include: Instead of appearing sad or tearful, some men might show signs of irritability, anger, or aggression as a manifestation of their depression. Men might report physical symptoms like headaches, digestive issues, or chronic pain without realizing that these could be linked to depression.

They also engage in behaviors such as substance abuse, reckless driving, or dangerous sports as a way to cope with their emotional struggles. While both men and women can isolate themselves when depressed, men might isolate more and not discuss their feelings with friends or family. We will uncover in detail the symptoms of depression in men.

Remember, depression is treatable, and seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness. If you’re concerned about yourself or someone else, don’t hesitate to reach out for assistance.

Symptoms Of Depression In Men

1. Physical symptoms of depression in men.

When it comes to depression in men, it’s important to recognize that it can affect not just your mind but also your body in various ways. Sometimes, these physical symptoms can be the first signs that something might be wrong. Men often tend to seek help for physical issues rather than talk about their emotions, so it’s crucial to be aware of these potential signs.

Some common physical symptoms of depression in men include:

  • Chest Tightness: You might feel like there’s a heaviness or tightness in your chest, which can be distressing.
  • Digestive Problems: Depression can mess with your stomach, leading to issues like gas, diarrhea, or constipation.
  • Sexual Problems: It might affect your sexual function, leading to problems like erectile dysfunction or a reduced interest in sex.
  • Headaches: Frequent headaches that don’t seem to have a clear cause can be a symptom of depression.
  • Hormonal Changes: Depression can also mess with your hormones, potentially leading to low testosterone levels.
  • Pain: You might experience unexplained physical pains or aches.
  • Racing Heart or Palpitations: Your heart might feel like it’s racing or skipping a beat, which can be concerning.
  • Weight Changes: Depression can affect your appetite, leading to unintended weight loss or sometimes weight gain.
  • Sleep Issues: Many men with depression struggle with sleep, often experiencing difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep through the night.

In addition to these, you might also feel extremely tired, have trouble sleeping, experience changes in your appetite, or even notice muscle tension.  

2. Mental symptoms of depression in men:

Depression doesn’t just affect your body; it can also have a profound impact on your mind and emotions. In men, these mental symptoms can sometimes be distinct, making it a bit more challenging to identify depression. Here are some of the key mental symptoms often observed in men with depression:

  • Inability to Concentrate: You might find it difficult to focus on tasks or maintain your attention on things, even those you used to enjoy.
  • Memory Problems: Depression can lead to forgetfulness and difficulty recalling information, affecting your day-to-day life.
  • Racing Thoughts: Your mind might feel like it’s constantly racing with negative or intrusive thoughts, making it hard to find peace.

3. Emotional symptoms of depression in men.

Men, in particular, may experience a range of emotional symptoms that can be quite different from what we typically associate with depression. Here are some emotional symptoms that men with depression might encounter:

  • Agitation: You may feel restless, on edge, or irritable, finding it difficult to relax.
  • Aggression: Some men with depression may become more prone to outbursts of anger or aggressive behavior, which can be distressing for both them and those around them.
  • Emotional Withdrawal: Depression can lead to a sense of emotional detachment from friends, family, and colleagues. You might isolate yourself or find it challenging to connect with others.
  • Hopelessness: A pervasive feeling of hopelessness or despair can take hold, making it hard to see a way out of the emotional pain.
  • Lack of Interest: Depression can cause a profound loss of interest in things you once enjoyed, such as family activities, hobbies, or work.
  • Lack of Libido: Reduced sexual desire and a lack of interest in intimacy can be common emotional symptoms in men with depression.
  • Restlessness: You might feel constantly on edge, as if you can’t sit still or relax, which can contribute to a sense of unease.
  • Low self-esteem:

Depression Lowers your self-esteem, and you frequently get the feeling of worthlessness.

4. Behavioral symptoms of depression in men

Depression can influence a person’s behavior, and in many cases, these behavioral signs may be more visible to others. Men, in particular, might exhibit the following behavioral symptoms of depression:

  • Difficulty Meeting Responsibilities: Depression can make it challenging to fulfill work, family, and personal obligations. You might struggle to concentrate, show up consistently, or complete tasks that were once manageable.
  • Drug Misuse: Some men may turn to drugs as a way to cope with their emotional pain, which can lead to substance abuse issues.
  • Excessive Alcohol Consumption: Using alcohol excessively as a way to self-medicate is a common behavior among men with depression.
  • Engaging in Risky Activities: Depression can impair judgment, leading to risky behaviors like reckless driving or unprotected sex. These actions may be a reflection of a lack of self-care and self-preservation.
  • Social Isolation: Men with depression often withdraw from social activities and isolate themselves from friends and family. You may become less engaged in social interactions or avoid them altogether.
  • Self-harming behavior: This is one of the most concerning aspects of depression. Self-harming behavior, including suicidal thoughts or attempts, is a critical sign of male depression and requires immediate help and support.

Causes Of Depression In Men  

  • Men with a personal history of depression are at a higher risk of experiencing it again. Additionally, depression can run in families, suggesting a genetic predisposition to the condition.
  • Ongoing health conditions such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, or chronic pain can contribute to symptoms of depression. The physical and emotional burden of managing these illnesses can take a toll on mental health. 
  • Some medications, including those commonly used to treat various health conditions, list depression as a potential side effect. Individuals need to be aware of the potential mental health effects of their medications and discuss any concerns with their healthcare provider.
  • Men who have experienced traumatic events, such as accidents, combat, natural disasters, or personal loss, may be at increased risk of developing depression over time. Stressful life events can be a significant predictor of depression in men, possibly more so than in women.
  • Childhood abuse, whether physical, emotional, or sexual, can have long-lasting psychological consequences. Men who have experienced abuse during childhood may be more vulnerable to depression in adulthood.
  • The misuse or addiction to substances like alcohol, drugs, or tobacco can increase the risk of depression in men. Substance abuse can disrupt brain chemistry and exacerbate feelings of sadness and hopelessness.
  • Prolonged exposure to chronic stress, whether due to work, financial problems, or personal issues, can contribute to the development of depression. Men facing ongoing stressors may be more susceptible to depressive symptoms.
  • Men who have limited social support or feel socially isolated may be at higher risk for depression. Social connections and a support network are crucial for emotional well-being.
  • Certain personality traits, such as perfectionism, self-criticism, or a tendency to internalize emotions, can increase the risk of depression in men.
  • Men are often less likely to seek help for emotional or mental health issues due to societal expectations of stoicism and self-reliance. Delayed or avoided help-seeking can exacerbate depression.

How Common is Depression in Men?

Depression is a common condition, impacting over 264 million people globally. Men make up a significant portion of this group, with approximately one in eight men experiencing depression at some point in their lives.

Unfortunately, a lot of men who grapple with depression don’t get the help they need. Men are less likely than women to reach out for support, which means that many cases of male depression go unnoticed and untreated.

Depression can affect men at any age, but there are some specific age groups where it’s more prevalent. Younger men, between 18 and 24, are at higher risk, as are older men who may be facing retirement or health challenges.

Why Do Men Feel Scared To Talk About Mental Health?

There’s a big problem with the way people see mental health, especially when it comes to men:

Stigma regarding mental health and fear of judgment, facing rejection, or being labeled as “crazy” are significant reasons why many men hesitate to talk about their depression or seek help for mental health issues. 

Societal expectations and traditional gender norms often place pressure on men to appear strong, self-reliant, and unemotional, which can make it challenging for them to openly express vulnerability or seek support. 

These stereotypes can contribute to feelings of shame and isolation, preventing men from addressing their mental health needs.  

Other factors include:

  • Looking Weak: Men are often afraid that if they say they’re feeling depressed, people will think they’re not strong. They think being strong means not showing any sadness or fear.
  • Losing Manliness: Some men worry that talking about their feelings will make them seem less like men or take away their self-respect. They think having a mental health problem makes them less of a man.
  • Hard to Open Up: Sometimes, when men finally decide to talk about their feelings, they meet resistance. This means that even when they try, it’s not easy to get help.
  • Old-Fashioned Ideas: Sometimes, people expect men to act in certain ways, like being strong and not showing their feelings. This can make it hard for men to admit they’re feeling down.
  • Culture Matters: Different cultures have different ideas about mental health. In some places, talking about mental health problems is seen as a bad thing. That can make it even harder for men to say they need help.
  • Stress at Work: Some jobs that are mostly done by men, like construction or police work, can be stressful. But because men don’t want to seem weak, they might not tell anyone when they’re feeling down because of work.

In conclusion, it’s really important to understand that depression can happen to men, too. We need to change how we think about men’s mental health and break down the things that stop men from asking for help. This way, we can help men get the support they need to feel better.

Is Depression Common in Elderly Men?

Yes, symptoms of depression in men over 40 are common, although it’s important to emphasize that it’s not a normal part of aging. Several factors can contribute to depression in older men:

  • Medical conditions such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, or chronic pain can be more common in older adults. Dealing with these health issues can lead to feelings of sadness and hopelessness, contributing to depression.
  • Aging often comes with significant losses, including the loss of friends, physical health, spouses, income, and meaningful work. These losses can accumulate and increase stress, which may trigger or worsen depression.
  • For many men, retirement can be a major life transition. Suddenly having no routine or structured schedule can be challenging, and the loss of a sense of purpose or identity associated with work can lead to depression.
  • Older adults may be at risk of social isolation, especially if they lose friends or family members. Loneliness and a lack of social interaction can contribute to depression.
  • The death of loved ones, including spouses, friends, or siblings, is a common experience in later life. Grief and mourning can be complicated and may trigger or exacerbate depressive symptoms.
  • The onset of other health problems, such as cognitive decline or mobility issues, can be emotionally distressing and contribute to depression.
  • Some medications commonly prescribed to older adults can have side effects that affect mood and contribute to depressive symptoms.

It’s crucial to recognize that depression in elderly men often goes undiagnosed and untreated. This can be due to factors like stigma, a reluctance to discuss mental health concerns, or the belief that these feelings are a natural part of aging.

The Consequences of Untreated Depression in Men

Untreated depression in men can have far-reaching consequences, affecting not only their mental well-being but also their relationships, work, finances, and physical health.

  • Strained Relationships: When a man is suffering from depression but doesn’t seek help, it can strain relationships with family members, partners, and friends. He may become distant, irritable, or withdrawn, making it difficult for loved ones to connect with him.
  • Impact on Parenting: If a man is a father, untreated depression can affect his ability to engage with his children. This can lead to a lack of emotional support and involvement in their lives.
  • Marital Issues: Depression can lead to conflicts and misunderstandings in romantic relationships, potentially resulting in marital strain or even separation.
  • Decreased Productivity: Untreated depression often leads to decreased concentration, energy, and motivation, which can result in reduced work performance and productivity. This can put a man’s job and career at risk.
  • Missed Workdays: Severe depression may lead to frequent absences from work, further jeopardizing job security and financial stability.
  • Financial Stress: The combination of job difficulties and potential medical bills related to untreated depression can create financial stress, adding to a man’s overall burden.
  • Increased Health Risks: Untreated depression is associated with an increased risk of developing other health issues, such as heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.
  • Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms: Some men with depression may turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as overeating or substance abuse, which can further harm their physical health.
  • Neglecting Self-Care: Depression often leads to neglecting self-care routines, including exercise and proper nutrition, which can contribute to declining physical health.

Ways to Recognize and Deal with Depression in Men

  • Create a Supportive Environment: Foster an environment where men feel safe and comfortable talking about their feelings. Encourage them to express their emotions without judgment.
  • Active Listening: Be a good listener. Pay attention to what they say, and show empathy and understanding. Sometimes, just having someone to talk to can make a big difference.
  • Ask Direct Questions: Sometimes, men may not volunteer information about their emotional state. Asking direct questions like, “How are you feeling?” or “Is something bothering you?” can help initiate conversations about their mental health.
  • Education and Awareness: Educate yourself and others about mental health issues. Share information to dispel myths and stereotypes, promoting a more compassionate and informed view of mental health.
  • Normalize Help-Seeking: Encourage men to understand that seeking help for mental health is a sign of strength, not weakness. Normalize the idea that everyone faces challenges, and seeking support is a brave step.
  • Role Models: Highlight the stories of well-known men who have openly discussed their mental health struggles. This can inspire others to do the same and reduce stigma.
  • Recognize When to Seek Help: Be aware of the signs that suggest professional help is needed, such as persistent and severe symptoms, thoughts of self-harm, or interference with daily life.
  • Encourage Therapy: Suggest therapy or counseling for men who may be hesitant. Explain that talking to a mental health professional can provide valuable insights, coping strategies, and support.
  • Assist in Finding Resources: Help men find appropriate mental health resources and professionals. Offer to assist in making appointments or researching available services.

Self-Help Strategies and Lifestyle Changes.

Men can also take steps to manage their depression through self-help and lifestyle changes:

  • Regular Exercise: Encourage physical activity, as exercise has been shown to improve mood and reduce symptoms of depression.
  • Healthy Eating: Promote a balanced diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Nutrition plays a role in overall well-being.
  • Adequate Sleep: Stress the importance of good sleep hygiene. A consistent sleep schedule and quality sleep can have a positive impact on mood.
  • Stress Management: Teach stress-reduction techniques like deep breathing, mindfulness, or meditation to help men better manage their emotions.
  • Social Connection: Encourage men to maintain and strengthen their social connections. Spending time with friends and loved ones can provide emotional support.

Treatment Options for Depression:

Depression is a complex condition, and treatment options vary based on the severity of the symptoms and individual needs. Here are some of the current treatment options available:

Talk Therapy (Psychotherapy):

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT helps individuals identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviors contributing to their depression. It teaches practical strategies for managing symptoms.

Interpersonal Therapy (IPT): 

IPT focuses on improving interpersonal relationships and communication skills, addressing issues like conflicts and life transitions that may be contributing to depression.

Problem-Solving Therapy:

This therapy helps individuals develop effective problem-solving skills to manage stressors and challenges contributing to their depression.

Psychodynamic Therapy: 

This approach explores unconscious thoughts and feelings that may be influencing a person’s mood and behavior, aiming to bring about lasting changes.

Medications:

  • Antidepressants: These medications are commonly prescribed to treat depression. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) like sertraline (Zoloft) and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) like venlafaxine (Effexor) are often used. Other classes of antidepressants, such as tricyclic antidepressants and monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), are prescribed in certain cases.
  • Atypical Antidepressants:  Medications like bupropion (Wellbutrin) and mirtazapine (Remeron) are sometimes used when other antidepressants haven’t been effective or have caused side effects.
  • Adjunctive Medications: In some cases, other medications, such as antipsychotics or mood stabilizers, may be prescribed alongside antidepressants to enhance their effectiveness.

Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT):

ECT is a medical procedure that involves the controlled delivery of electrical currents to the brain. It is typically reserved for severe, treatment-resistant depression or when there’s a need for rapid symptom relief.

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS):

TMS is a non-invasive procedure that uses magnetic fields to stimulate nerve cells in the brain. It is often considered when other treatments haven’t worked or have caused undesirable side effects.

Support Groups and Peer Counseling:

Joining support groups or engaging in peer counseling can provide emotional support and help individuals share their experiences and coping strategies.

Best Self-Help Books For Depression.

Several books can be helpful for men dealing with depression. Here’s a list of some highly recommended books on the topic:

  • Lost Connections:  Hari’s book delves into the societal and environmental factors that contribute to depression and offers insights into addressing them.
  • The Depression Cure:  This book presents a holistic approach to managing depression through lifestyle changes and natural remedies.
  • The Noonday Demon: While not exclusively focused on men, this comprehensive book offers deep insights into the nature of depression and the various ways people cope with it.
  • “Man’s Search for Meaning”  Though not a book specifically about depression, Frankl’s account of his experiences in a Nazi concentration camp and his exploration of finding meaning in suffering can provide valuable insights and inspiration for men struggling with depression.
  • Undoing Depression:  O’Connor’s book combines personal stories with practical advice for managing and recovering from depression.

These books cover a range of perspectives and approaches to dealing with depression, so you can choose the one that resonates most with you or the person you’re recommending it to.

Helpful Resources and Behavioral Health Organizations for Men:

Website: Man Therapy

Description: Man Therapy is a mental health campaign designed specifically for men. It provides resources, including a head inspection assessment, and offers tips for managing negative emotions and seeking help.

Website: NAMI

Description: NAMI is dedicated to raising awareness about mental health issues and providing support to individuals and families. They offer a helpline and crisis text line for those in need.

Website National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:

Description: This national 24/7 helpline provides support for individuals in crisis, including those experiencing suicidal thoughts or emotional distress.

Website: Face It Foundation

Description: The Face It Foundation offers a network of support groups and peer support services specifically for men dealing with depression. Their focus is on confronting depression and starting the journey to recovery.

Website: HeadsUpGuys

Description: HeadsUpGuys provides men with strategies and information to manage and prevent depression. It also offers resources to help men find therapists and access mental health support.

Website: Movember Foundation

Description: The Movember Foundation focuses on men’s physical and mental health issues. They run various initiatives and campaigns to raise awareness and support research and programs related to men’s health.

Website: Brother, You Are On My Mind  

Description: This initiative, a collaboration between Omega Psi Phi Fraternity and the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, offers a toolkit to address depression and stress in African-American men.

Website: Men’s Group  

Description: Men’s Group is an online discussion forum where men can openly talk about life challenges, including topics like divorce, depression, and parenthood. It provides a safe space for men to connect and share experiences.

Wrapping up!

In wrapping it all up, let’s remember that recognizing symptoms of depression in men is super important. We all go through tough times, and it’s okay not to be okay sometimes. For guys, though, talking about their feelings and seeking help can be tough due to societal pressures.

So, what have we learned? Look out for changes in mood, behavior, or physical health. If you or someone you know is showing these signs, don’t be shy about reaching out for help. Remember, seeking help isn’t a sign of weakness; it’s a sign of courage.

By talking openly about depression in men and being there for one another, we can make a world where everyone feels comfortable seeking help when they need it. Together, we can break down the walls of stigma surrounding men’s mental health and help those struggling with depression find the support and care they deserve.