Men, women, and people of all gender identities may experience depression at some point in their lives. Depression is a serious condition that affects how a person thinks, feels, and acts.
This may be due to mix of social and biological factors that make it more challenging to notice and diagnose depression in men. They may also feel culturally pressured to act “manly” by hiding their emotions.
Because of this, it’s more common for men to have depression with symptoms that are different and sometimes harder to identify.
If you think that you or someone you love may be struggling with depression, read on to learn about the signs and symptoms that men may experience and what you can do next.
Men with depression may first notice its physical effects. While depression is thought of as a mental health disorder, it can also manifest in the body.
Some common physical signs of depression in men include:
- chest tightness
- digestive problems like gas, diarrhea, and constipation
- erectile dysfunction and other sexual problems
- hormonal issues like low testosterone
- racing heart, or heart palpitations
- unintended weight loss (and sometimes weight gain)
Mental symptoms of depression may present differently in men than they do in people of other genders, which can make depression harder to detect.
These symptoms may interfere with the way a person thinks and processes information, affecting behavior and emotions.
Some of the most common mental symptoms of depression in men include:
- inability to concentrate
- memory problems
- obsessive-compulsive thought patterns
- racing thoughts
- sleep issues, usually difficulty 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 just one of many possible emotions 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 resist discussing their emotions, it’s often their behavioral symptoms of depression that are most apparent to others.
In men, the behavioral symptoms of depression most commonly include:
- difficulty meeting work, family, and other personal responsibilities
- drug misuse
- drinking alcohol in excess
- engaging in risky activities, such as driving recklessly or having unprotected sex
- social isolation
- suicide attempts
While discussions around mental health seem to be expanding in reach and compassion, there’s still some cultural and social stigma around depression— particularly among men.
Generally, men are socialized by society to hold in their emotions, though we know doing so isn’t healthy. In their efforts to maintain these social norms, many men may be compromising their emotional, physical, and mental well-being.
In addition, many men are never taught to recognize the less typical signs of depression that they’re 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 recognize the signs may struggle to discuss their experience because they fear the judgment of others.
As a result, when many men experience the signs of depression, they begin to work long hours or otherwise fill their time to stay busy, instead of addressing the depression itself.
Diagnosing depression and seeking treatment can help save lives.
In continuing to open up the conversation, we can help men with depression recognize the signs. By seeking treatment, men with depression can live their fullest possible lives.
Depression is most often treated with talk therapy, medications, or both of these things together. A healthcare professional can help create a personalized treatment plan that works best for you.
Many men begin treatment for moderate cases of depression by scheduling an appointment with a talk therapist (psychotherapist). From there, the therapist might suggest specific types of care, such as:
From there, medication may be added, if needed.
However, for more severe cases, medication might be prescribed right away to help alleviate 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 healthcare professional may also suggest other medications.
Be aware that these medications often take several weeks to months or begin making a noticeable difference in the way you feel. Be patient and stick closely to the treatment plan.
When to seek help
If you’re experiencing one or more of the above symptoms of depression to the point that it interferes with your daily life, consider scheduling an appointment to meet with a mental health counselor.
Most insurance plans provide coverage for such counseling, and receiving care is discreet and confidential.
If you’re experiencing suicidal thoughts, plan to attempt, or have attempted suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, or dial 911.
While recent conversations around mental health have become more candid and inclusive, many men still find it difficult to talk about their emotions in a society that upholds traditional views about men.
It can also be challenging to identify the 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 clear a pathway toward better, more inclusive mental healthcare.
With talk therapy, medication, or a combination of these two things, depression becomes a much more manageable part of the human experience.