Depression in Men: Understanding the Signs of Male Depression and Causes
While depression has many similarities among all genders, men do experience it differently in some ways.
To help you understand these differences, we’ll be looking at the social, cultural, and even biological factors that cause them. We’ll also cover the symptoms of male depression, the causes, and the best forms of treatment.
When depression is left untreated in men, unfortunately, the consequences can be devastating. By learning to recognize the signs, men can better help themselves, and we can better support the men around us.
The good news is that depression is treatable in more than 80% of cases. That’s why helping men understand the disorder and seek proper treatment is such an important mission.
How Depression Affects Men Differently
So, how is depression different in men compared to women? Well, here are four key facts that explain the gender differences.
Men are Less Likely to Recognize the Symptoms
The symptoms of depression in men can present themselves in ways you might not immediately associate with the disorder. For example, anger and irritability are two common signs of male depression, which are easy to overlook. Telling the difference between normal emotions, typical male behavior, and depression can be challenging.
Men are Less Likely to Talk About Depression
Men can be more reluctant to talk about mental health issues and may choose to ignore them altogether. Their response to concerns might be something like, “I’m alright” or “I’m okay, just a bit stressed from work.”
Cultural expectations, stigma, and “traditional” gender roles can make it hard for men to express emotions freely, as society often puts pressure on them to be strong, dominant, and successful. Toxic masculinity is another term used to describe cultural pressures that glorify unhealthy habits.
Men are Less Likely to Seek Treatment
While the situation is better now than in the past, men still find it hard to seek proper help. Men often turn to unhealthy coping strategies such as alcohol or pain relief tablets, which bring temporary relief but exacerbate the problem over time. Men might not be open to seeing a mental health professional because they feel it’s not manly to do so and are more used to suppressing their emotions.
Men are More Likely to Commit Suicide
Sadly, one of the consequences of male depression being underdiagnosed and undertreated is that men are 3.63 times more likely to die by suicide than women in the US. While females attempt suicide more often, male attempts are more likely to result in death as they tend to use more lethal methods to carry out the act.
Please Note: If you’re having suicidal thoughts, this is an acute health crisis, and you should seek help right away.
Symptoms of Depression in Men
There are some common symptoms of depression to look out for among all genders and some that present more uniquely in men.
First, here are the universal symptoms of depression that anyone can experience:
- Loss of Interest: Not caring about anything and uninterested in pleasurable activities.
- Low Mood: Feeling sad, down, tearful, hopeless, upset, guilty, or worthless.
- Appetite Changes: Decreased or sometimes increased appetite, which can result in weight changes.
- Fatigue: Feeling tired, unmotivated, and a lack of energy.
- Sleep Disruption: Finding it hard to fall asleep, waking up earlier than usual, or oversleeping.
- Social Problems: Withdrawing socially, avoiding contact with others, escapist behavior, and struggling with work, home, or family life.
- Suicidal Thoughts: Thinking about harming yourself or ending your life.
While men with depression can certainly experience all of the symptoms above, they also often experience the following:
- Anger management issues
- Irritability, hostility, and aggressiveness
- Alcohol or substance misuse
- Controlling or violent behavior
- Reckless or self-destructive behavior
Men experience symptoms like anger or aggressiveness more often because they’re more likely to try and cope on their own rather than recognize something is wrong. They might also feel it’s more acceptable to show these emotions as they are considered more “manly.” Testosterone could also be a reason why men are more likely to show signs of irritability than sadness.
As many of the symptoms above can overlap with other mental illnesses or medical conditions, it’s always best to seek professional help to get an accurate diagnosis.
Causes of Male Depression
There are many different possible causes of depression in men, and often, a combination of factors can add up and trigger the condition. Here are some of the most recognized causes of male depression:
- Trauma and Stress: This can include grief and loss, financial difficulties, relationship issues, abuse (physical, mental, or sexual), and other traumatic or stressful events. Trying to deal with trauma on your own can also put you more at risk.
- Poor Health: Severe injuries and life-threatening or long-lasting illnesses, such as cancer or chronic pain, can put you more at risk of getting the disorder. Head injuries may also trigger mood disorders and depression.
- Personality: A combination of early life experiences and the genes you inherit help shape your personality. Some character traits, such as low self-esteem or perfectionism, can put you at higher risk of getting depression.
- Social Environment: You’re more likely to develop the disorder if your spouse or people you spend a lot of time with have it. Equally, if you cut yourself off from others and become lonely, this can also increase the risk of depression.
- Becoming a Dad: Postpartum depression in men is common, with around 10% of dads becoming depressed during their partner’s pregnancy or the first year after the baby is born. First-time dads tend to be most at risk.
- Drugs and Alcohol: Many men choose to self-medicate with alcohol and drugs, but too much use of these can make you more vulnerable to depression. That’s because some drugs, like cannabis and alcohol, can affect the chemistry of your brain.
Male Depression Treatment
The two main treatments for depression are psychotherapy and medication, but there are also other remedies available that can help. The type of treatment you have will depend on how mild or severe your depression is.
Psychotherapy, or talking therapy as it’s also known, is very effective in treating depression and ensures you get an accurate diagnosis. Talking with a therapist, either online or in-person, allows you to share your feelings and experiences in a safe, confidential, non-judgmental environment.
A therapist can help you understand your behaviors, thoughts, and emotions and will work with you to develop effective strategies to treat and overcome depression.
There are many different types of antidepressants available to treat the symptoms of depression, and they can be highly effective. However, a doctor must prescribe these medicines, and they’re most suitable for moderate to severe cases. Antidepressants help many people better manage their lives, but they don’t work for everyone, and some people have issues with side effects.
Lifestyle interventions and alternative therapies may also help with mild depression. However, you should be aware that depression isn’t usually something you can treat on your own. Here are some self-care treatments often recommended for depression:
- Mindfulness and meditation
- Regular exercise
- A healthy diet
- Art or music therapy
- Relaxation techniques like tai chi and yoga
- Avoiding alcohol and drugs
Depression in men is common, and unfortunately, it’s underdiagnosed and undertreated. Trying to deal with depression and other mental health issues alone is rarely the best option, especially when professional help is effective and readily available.
Talking to someone about your problems is the best way to get appropriate help. Our online therapists at Calmerry are ready to work with you in a safe, welcoming environment and help you treat depression effectively.
Kate has an MD in Health and Medical Psychology. She has worked in the healthcare industry since 2017, helping people with depression, anxiety, trauma, and grief as well as identity, relationship, and adjustment issues. Kate tries to make the world a better place by fighting stigma and discrimination and advocating for equality and equity for all people. And what she loves most about her work at Calmerry is the possibility to make quality mental health care even more accessible to everyone – one step at a time.Read more