Male Depression: Causes, Types, Symptoms & Treatments

Both men and women can experience depression; however, they may experience it differently. For instance, men may have a more challenging time recognizing their symptoms or discussing their feelings with others. Treatment for depression is available and can help a man suffering from depression to boost his mood over time, and go on to lead a more positive and happy life.

Male Depression |

Male Depression: Causes, Types, Symptoms & Treatments

Both men and women can experience depression; however, they may experience it differently. For instance, men may have a more challenging time recognizing their symptoms or discussing their feelings with others. Treatment for depression is available and can help a man suffering from depression to boost his mood over time, and go on to lead a more positive and happy life.

Table of Contents

What Is Depression?

Feelings such as sadness, irritability, and occasional fatigue are normal and usually pass after a couple of days. Depression, also known as major depression or clinical depression, entails much more than these fleeting symptoms and is a serious mood disorder that can cause severe symptoms. People who suffer from depression have issues dealing with how they feel, think, and handle regular activities. Symptoms must last for at least two weeks for someone to be diagnosed with depression.1

Both men and women can suffer from depression, but they are likely to deal with it differently. Some men with depression have difficulty expressing their emotions and instead display anger, irritability, or aggression. Women are more likely to express their sadness. Men often feel very tired and show a lack of interest in work, family, and regular activities when experiencing depression. They usually have more difficulty sleeping than their female counterparts and may also have physical issues such as a racing heart, tightness in their chest, chronic headaches, and digestive problems. They are more likely to see a doctor for these physical issues than any emotional symptoms they may be experiencing.1

Men may also turn to drugs and alcohol to cope with their emotional symptoms and are more likely than women to commit suicide. Women are more likely to attempt suicide, but men typically use more lethal methods to attempt suicide.1

Signs and Symptoms of Depression

Depression is characterized by a variety of signs and symptoms. While men and women may exhibit different signs and symptoms, some of them are the same.

Signs and symptoms of depression include: 2

  • Feelings of sadness or emptiness
  • Loss of interest in regular activities
  • Extreme weight loss, weight gain, or changes in appetite
  • Inability to concentrate or remember details
  • Difficulty sleeping or excessive sleeping
  • Physical agitation or lethargy
  • Fatigue or lack of energy
  • Feeling worthless or guilty
  • Thoughts of suicide or suicide attempts

Men are typically less adept than women at recognizing when they are experiencing symptoms of depression. Men are more likely to deny feelings, hide them, or mask them with other behaviors. While men may experience classic symptoms of depression, they are more likely than women to experience “stealth” symptoms. 3

Men are more likely to experience the following symptoms: 2
  • Irritability
  • Loss of interest in work, hobbies, or once pleasurable activities, including sex
  • Issues with sleep
  • Physical problems like headaches, digestive disorders, or chronic pain
  • Drug and alcohol addiction
  • Behavioral changes, such as becoming abusive, controlling, or violent
  • Risky behavior, such as aggressive driving or unsafe sex

The most commonly overlooked signs of depression in men are physical pain, anger, and reckless behavior. 3

Different Types of Depression

There are varying kinds of depression. The most common types of depression include: 1

Major Depression

Characterized by symptoms that interfere with someone’s ability to work, sleep, study, eat, and engage in once pleasurable activities. Major depression can occur only once in someone’s lifetime, but it is more common for someone to have multiple episodes. Different subtypes of major depression include: 1

Psychotic Depression: Characterized by severe depression accompanied by delusions or hallucinations that are depression-themed. Someone with psychotic depression may believe they are sick or poor even when they are not, or may hear voices that aren’t there saying they are worthless.1
Seasonal Affective Disorder: Characterized by depression symptoms that occur during the winter months each year. During this time, there is less natural sunlight. (1) 1

Persistent Depressive Disorder: Characterized by depressive symptoms that last two years or longer but are not as severe as those of major depression. 1

Minor Depression: Characterized by depressive symptoms that last two years or longer but are not as severe as those of major depression. 1

Bipolar disorder is not the same as depression; however, someone who suffers from bipolar disorder experiences episodes of depression. These episodes are accompanied by extreme high moods referred to as mania. 1

Causes of Depression in Men

There are multiple risk factors for depression. Some of the most common include: 1

#1: Genetic Factors

A man who has a family history of depression is more likely to develop it himself than a man who does not have any family members with depression. 1

#2: Environmental Stress

Stressors include experiencing financial issues, losing a loved one, being involved in a problematic relationship, having problems at work, going through a significant life change, and any other stressful situations. These stressors may trigger the onset of depression in some men. 1

#3: Illness

Serious medical illnesses, such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease, or Parkinson’s disease, can occur alongside depression. These conditions can cause someone’s depression to become worse, and vice versa. Medications for these conditions can cause side effects that can trigger depression or make existing depression worse. 1

Some additional causes for depression in men include: 2
Separation and Divorce: Depression is more common in men who are divorced. In this situation, they often lose contact with children, move to a different location, and experience financial issues.  4 Unemployment: Depression is more common in men who are divorced. In this situation, they often lose contact with children, move to a different location, and experience financial issues. 4 Retirement: Although life is typically less stressful in retirement, it can trigger depression due to the loss of familiar structure and feelings of lack of purpose. 4

How Depression Can Go Unrecognized and Undiagnosed in Men

The main difference between depression in men and women is that it goes unrecognized and undiagnosed in men more often than women. Men are often told that they should be strong, and because of this, they may have a difficult time opening up about problems they are having. American culture also suggests that it is a feminine trait to express emotion outwardly. Men are more likely to talk about their physical symptoms rather than any emotional symptoms. 5

Some of the reasons men with depression may go undiagnosed include: 6
Failure to recognize depression
A man suffering from depression may believe that the main symptom of depression is feeling sad or emotional. Thus, he may think that his physical symptoms and feelings of isolation are not indicators of depression. For many men, these symptoms are primary. 6
Downplaying signs and symptoms
Men who are depressed may not recognize the severity of their symptoms and may also have difficulty admitting to themselves and others that they are experiencing symptoms. Ignoring depression or trying to suppress it by engaging in unhealthy behaviors can only result in more severe symptoms. 6
Reluctance to discuss depression symptoms

Men experiencing depression may have trouble discussing their feelings with friends, family, doctors, and mental health professionals. Men often learn that it is important to practice self-control when experiencing certain emotions. They may have also learned that it is not “manly” to express the feelings and emotions associated with depression. 6

Resisting mental health treatment
Men who believe that they are experiencing depression may still try to avoid diagnoses or refuse treatment because they are worried about the stigma associated with depression.6

Suicide Risk

Untreated depression can lead to personal issues, problems with family and finances, and even suicide. Men are four times more likely to commit suicide than women in the United States, which may result from the prevalence of untreated depression in men. 7

Even though women attempt suicide more often than men do, men have a higher chance of committing suicide because: 6

Treatment for Depression

For many men, depression can come with feelings of embarrassment and shame, and fear of stigma associated with a diagnosis. However, untreated depression is likely to continue to get worse over time. 8

Once someone overcomes the fear of talking about their depression, treatment is extremely effective for depression. Eight out of ten cases of depression respond well to treatment methods. 7

Some combination of medication and therapy is the general method of treatment for depression. A doctor can prescribe antidepressant medication and refer their patients for therapy. Medication or therapy alone can be effective, but someone with severe depression will likely need to take medication to experience a change. 8

Additionally, good nutrition and healthy sleep can create a better mood for someone who is in the process of treating their depression. Regular exercise is also important and may work just as well as medication for mildly depressed patients. 8

Medication

While antidepressant medication can be effective in treating depression, it can take several weeks to become effective. Medication can help with symptoms such as sleep, appetite, and concentration issues before it affects mood, so it is essential to take it for a reasonable amount of time before deciding whether it is effective. 1
Antidepressants may have side effects that include: 1
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Difficulty Sleeping
  • Nervousness
  • Restlessness
  • Sexual issues

These side effects may become less severe over time, but it is essential to consult a doctor if any of these side effects show up. The dosage of antidepressants can begin low and gradually increase to a full therapeutic dose to minimize side effects.1

It is crucial to understand that antidepressants can cause serious risks for some people, especially children, teens, and young adults. They can cause some young people to have suicidal thoughts and can increase their risk of suicide attempts. Suicidal thoughts and attempts are more likely to occur in someone who becomes agitated when they start taking the medication. Close monitoring by a mental health professional can minimize these risks.1

Someone may also respond better to some antidepressants than others. If someone is experiencing severe side effects from one medication, a doctor may suggest trying a different kind. If a medication is only partially effective, a doctor may prescribe another medication to take alongside it. 1

It is imperative not to stop taking antidepressants without a doctor’s help, even if depression symptoms have gone away. Abruptly stopping the medication can cause depression symptoms to return and can also result in withdrawal symptoms. Under medical supervision, a doctor will help slowly decrease the dose, usually over a 6 to 12 month period, if it is decided that it is time to stop taking the medication. 1

Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy is also effective in treating depression and may occur alongside medication. Psychotherapy involves talking through triggers and responses with a mental health professional. Different kinds of psychotherapy can effectively treat depression. 9
Different kinds of psychotherapy can effectively treat depression. 9

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a short-term therapy used to replace negative thought patterns with more positive and realistic ones.  Specific steps can help reduce the severity of symptoms.  9

Interpersonal “talk” therapy is an attachment-focused therapy that revolves around resolving interpersonal issues and recovery from symptoms 9

Problem-solving therapy helps patients learn tools that will help them manage the adverse effects of stressful life events. 9

Psychotherapy is effective in helping people who suffer from depression to: 9

  • Cope during a crisis
  • Replace negative thought patterns
  • Build positive connections with others
  • Find new effective ways to solve problems
  • Identify the issues that contribute to depression
  • Set goals that are realistic
  • Tolerate stressful situations

How to Help a Depressed Loved One

If a man you love is struggling with depression, it is crucial to recognize that they cannot turn it off or snap out of it. They may also be unable to understand their symptoms and may not be interested in seeking professional treatment.1

You can best support someone you love by helping them find a doctor or mental health professional and helping them make the initial appointment. Men who have a hard time recognizing their depression may agree to get help for their physical symptoms. Talking with a primary care doctor about these symptoms can be an excellent first step in learning about and getting treatment for depression.1

The best ways to help your loved one include: 1
  • Offering support, patience, and encouragement
  • Listening to him
  • Taking suicide comments seriously
  • Inviting him out for physical and social activity
  • Encouraging him to talk with his health care provider about any medication concerns
  • Reminding him that he is taking the right steps towards a better life

Tips to Boost Your Mood

If you are a man suffering from depression, it is essential not to try and handle it independently. Seeking help from a loved one or a mental health professional is a courageous act. Self-help steps like seeking social support, regularly exercising, and fostering a healthy diet are effective methods for working through depression. 3

These activities will help you begin to feel better with each day but will not necessarily immediately improve your mood, so keep going! Many men who seek treatment for depression will notice better sleep patterns and appetite before shifts in mood occur. 3

There are several steps you can take, in addition to treatment, that can positively affect how you think and feel. These steps can aid in the process of overcoming depression symptoms. These steps include:3

Reaching Out for Social Support

Engage in Positive Lifestyle Changes

Exercise Regularly

Maintaining a Healthy Diet

Challenging Negative Thoughts, like:

Utilizing these strategies alongside treatment from a doctor or mental health professional can help boost your mood over time, creating a more positive and enjoyable life for yourself. Remember, it is ok to ask for help. You are not alone.

References

  1. Men and Depression. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/men-and-depression/index.shtml
  2. Publishing, H. H. (n.d.). Recognizing depression in men. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/recognizing-depression-in-men
  3. Robinson, L. (n.d.). Depression in Men. Retrieved from https://www.helpguide.org/articles/depression/depression-in-men.htm
  4. Depression and men: Royal College of Psychiatrists. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/mental-health/problems-disorders/depression-and-men
  5. Depression in Men: Symptoms and Physical Effects. (2020, June 04). Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/depression/depression-men#1
  6. Behaviors in men that could be signs of depression. (2019, May 21). Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/in-depth/male-depression/art-20046216
  7. Men: A Different Depression. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/research/action/men
  8. Publishing, H. H. (n.d.). Men: Don’t ignore signs of depression. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/men-dont-ignore-signs-of-depression
  9. Article by: Katie Hurley. (2020, September 25). Depression in Men: Types, Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments. Retrieved from https://www.psycom.net/depression-in-men
Male Depression |

ADHD and Addiction

Individuals with ADHD tend to be overly active, have trouble concentrating, and become bored easily. Oftentimes, people who suffer from ADHD are more likely to develop a substance abuse disorder to cope with the symptoms of ADHD. These disorders combined commonly provoke a cycle of addiction that can be difficult to break without serious treatment.