Many factors in our society have trained men to hide their emotions and try to tough out any feelings of sadness. Unfortunately, that approach couldn’t be more unhealthy when it comes to male depression. It’s a serious medical condition and it’s important to learn the signs—and what actions to take—if you or someone you know exhibits symptoms.
Signs and symptoms of male depression
Depression signs and symptoms can differ in men and women. For example, men are more likely to use unhealthy coping strategies like working or drinking too much to mask more serious issues. It’s unclear why men and women experience depression differently, however, it likely involves factors like brain chemistry, hormones and life experiences.
Despite the differences in how males and females experience depression, there are some similarities. Both men and women with depression may:
- Act irritable
- Become isolated or withdrawn
- Feel sad, hopeless or empty
- Feel extremely tired
- Have difficulty sleeping or sleep too much
- Not get pleasure from activities usually enjoyed
Other behaviors in men that could be signs of depression but often go unrecognized include:
- Escapist behavior, such as spending a lot of time at work or on sports
- Physical symptoms, such as headaches, digestive problems and pain
- Problems with alcohol or drug use
- Controlling, violent or abusive behavior
- Irritability or inappropriate anger
- Risky behavior, such as reckless driving
Many of these behaviors could be signs of other mental health issues or medical conditions, so it’s important to seek professional help to get the most accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.
Why male depression often goes undiagnosed
Men with depression frequently aren’t diagnosed for several reasons, including:
Failure to recognize depression
Feeling sad or emotional is a common sign of depression, however, for many men, that isn’t the primary symptom. For example, headaches, digestive problems, tiredness, irritability or long-term pain can all be signs of depression that go unseen.
Downplaying signs and symptoms
Most people don’t want to admit that they’re depressed, and they might not even recognize the impact of their symptoms. But ignoring, suppressing or masking depression with unhealthy behavior will only worsen the negative emotions.
Reluctance to discuss depression symptoms
Men often don’t think it’s manly to express feelings and emotions that are associated with depression, so they try to suppress them, which prevents discussions with family friends and mental health professionals.
Resisting mental health treatment
The stigma associated with getting help causes many men to avoid diagnosis or refuse treatment. Often, that fear is rooted in the concern that getting help could damage their career or cause their family and friends to lose respect for them.
Male depression and suicide
Although women attempt suicide more often than men, males are more likely to complete suicide. That’s because men:
- Use methods such as guns that are more likely to cause death
- May act more impulsively
- Show fewer warning signs, such as talking about suicide
If you have suicidal thoughts
If you think you may hurt yourself or attempt suicide, get help right now:
- Call 911 or your local emergency number immediately.
- Call a suicide hotline. In the U.S., call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) or use its webchat on suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat.
If you’re feeling suicidal, but you aren’t thinking of immediately hurting yourself, seek help:
- Reach out to a close friend or loved one—even though it may be hard to talk about your feelings.
- Contact a minister, spiritual leader or someone in your faith community.
- Consider joining a men’s health group that deals with depression.
- Call a suicide crisis center hotline.
- Make an appointment with your doctor, other primary care provider or mental health professional.
Get help when you need it
Asking for help can be hard for men. But without treatment, depression is unlikely to go away, and it may get worse. Untreated depression can make you and the people close to you miserable. It can cause problems in every aspect of your life, including your health, career, relationships and personal safety.
Depression, even if it’s severe, usually improves with medications or psychological counseling (psychotherapy) or both. If you or someone close to you thinks you may be depressed, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional. It’s a sign of strength to ask for advice or seek help when you need it.
Male depression and coping skills
Treatment, including psychotherapy, with a mental health professional can help you learn healthy coping skills. These may include:
Set realistic goals and prioritize tasks.
Seek out emotional support from a partner or family or friends. Learn strategies for making social connections so that you can get involved in social activities.
Learn ways to manage stress, such as meditation and mindfulness, and develop problem-solving skills.
Delay making important decisions, such as changing jobs, until your depression symptoms improve.
Engage in activities you typically enjoy, such as ball games, fishing or a hobby.
Try to stick to a regular schedule and make healthy lifestyle choices, including healthy eating and regular physical activity, to help promote better mental health.
Male depression is treatable
Male depression typically improves with treatment, and there are many effective options available. Getting help yourself or encouraging someone else to seek treatment could help avoid serious consequences. It might just become one of the best choices you’ll ever make.