According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), women seem to experience depression at a higher rate than men. However, it’s thought that men may be underrepresented in these numbers.
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.
Many men are more likely to visit their doctors for physical issues than for emotional issues.
Some common physical signs of depression in men include:
- digestive problems like gas, diarrhea, and constipation
- 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
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. Suicide rates are high among men, especially those who have served or currently serve in the military. Additionally, men are three to four times more likely than women to complete suicide.
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.
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.
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.
Last medically reviewed on April 7, 2021