What are the signs and symptoms of depression in men?
Men, women, and people of all gender identities can experience depression at some point in their lives. Depression is a serious condition that affects the way a person thinks, feels, and acts.
This may be due to a combination of social and biological factors that make it more difficult to detect and diagnose depression in men. They may also feel culturally pressured to act “masculine” by hiding their emotions.
Because of this, it is more common for men to have depression with symptoms that are different and sometimes more difficult to identify.
If you think you or someone you love may be struggling with depression, read on to learn about the signs and symptoms men may experience and what you can do next.
Men with depression may first notice its physical effects. Although depression is considered a mental health disorder, it can also manifest itself in the body.
Some common physical signs of depression in men include:
- chest tightness
- digestive problems such as gas, diarrhea, and constipation
- erectile dysfunction and other sexual problems
- hormonal problems such as low testosterone
- racing heart or heart palpitations
- unintentional weight loss (and sometimes weight gain)
The mental symptoms of depression can present differently in men than in people of other genders, which can make depression more difficult to detect.
These symptoms can interfere with the way a person thinks and processes information, affecting behavior and emotions.
Some of the more common mental symptoms of depression in men include:
- inability to concentrate
- memory problems
- obsessive-compulsive thought patterns
- racing thoughts
- trouble sleeping, usually trouble falling asleep or staying asleep
- suicidal thoughts
When most people hear the word “depression,” they think of a person who seems very sad. However, sadness is only one of many possible emotions that depression can cause.
In addition to sadness, men may experience the following emotional symptoms of depression:
- emotional withdrawal from friends, family, and colleagues
- lack of interest in family, community, hobbies, and work
- lack of libido
The mental, physical, and emotional symptoms of depression in men can also affect behavior. Because some men are reluctant to talk about their emotions, it is often their behavioral symptoms of depression that are most apparent to others.
In men, behavioral symptoms of depression most commonly include:
- difficulty meeting work, family, and other personal responsibilities
- drug abuse
- drink alcohol in excess
- engaging in risky activities, such as reckless driving or unprotected sex
- Social isolation
- suicide attempts
While discussions of mental health seem to be expanding in scope and compassion, there is still some cultural and social stigma surrounding depression, particularly among men.
In general, society socializes men to withhold their emotions, even though we know that doing so is not healthy. In their efforts to uphold these social norms, many men may be compromising their emotional, physical, and mental well-being.
Also, many men are never taught to recognize the less typical signs of depression that they are more likely than others to experience.
Some men never seek help for their depression because they never recognize the signs. On the other hand, some men who do recognizing the signs may have a hard time talking about their experience because they fear the judgment of others.
As a result, when many men experience the signs of depression, they start working long hours or take their time to keep busy, rather than address the depression itself.
Diagnosing depression and seeking treatment can help save lives.
By continuing to open up the conversation, we can help men with depression recognize the signs. By seeking treatment, men with depression can live as full a life as possible.
Depression is most often treated with talk therapy, medication, or both. A healthcare professional can help you create a personalized treatment plan that works best for you.
Many men begin treatment for mild cases of depression by making an appointment with a talk therapist (psychotherapist). From there, the therapist might suggest specific types of care, such as:
- cognitive behavioral therapy
- interpersonal therapy
- problem solving therapy
- psychodynamic therapy
From there, medications can be added, if needed.
However, for more severe cases, medications may be prescribed right away to help relieve some of the physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral symptoms of depression. This may be the case for someone with suicidal thoughts or who has attempted suicide.
Antidepressants such as paroxetine (Paxil) or sertraline (Zoloft) are commonly used to treat depression. However, a mental health professional may also suggest other medications.
Keep in mind that these medications often take several weeks or months or start to make a noticeable difference in the way you feel. Be patient and strictly adhere to the treatment plan.
While recent conversations about mental health have become more open and inclusive, many men still find it difficult to talk about their emotions in a society that espouses traditional views of men.
It can also be challenging to identify symptoms of depression in men, which are influenced by those same social factors, as well as male biology.
By sharing knowledge about the symptoms of depression in men, we can help pave the way for better and more inclusive mental health care.
With talk therapy, medication, or a combination of these two things, depression becomes a much more manageable part of the human experience.
Last medical check-up on April 7, 2021