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Signs of Depression in Men, Causes, & What to Know

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Asking for help can be hard for men. But without treatment, the signs of depression in men are unlikely to go away and may worsen.

Signs of Depression in Men

Men with depression are more prone to exhibit risk-taking behavior and anger attacks than women. One of the top signs of depression in men is that they are more frequently impacted by alcohol and drug usage than women. Understanding how depression symptoms may vary between men and women is crucial. It can help raise awareness of depression in individuals and those close to them.

Depression in men, at least in the early stages, often does not fit the aforementioned-textbook description. It often manifests as irritability, anger, hostility, aggressive, abusive behavior, risk-taking, substance abuse, and escaping behavior (for example, overinvolvement at work). These signs and symptoms can mask the more typical symptoms of depression (sadness, crying, feelings of guilt, and changes in appetite).

Leaving depression untreated can harm a person’s well-being. Depression is a risk factor for suicide. Therefore, a person with depression must receive help as soon as possible. Everyone responds to mental health treatment differently, but a mental health professional can advise a man on which treatment may best suit his needs.

Men do not typically arrive at their doctors’ offices talking about feeling sad or depressed per se. They rarely mention any emotional or behavioral difficulties to their doctors. Yet, if they do happen to disclose any problems, they tend to describe problems at work, including diminished job performance or difficulty functioning. Generally, men talk about their emotional problems in terms of “stress” rather than sadness or feeling down.

Instead of verbally communicating emotional problems, men tend to act out their stress and depression. It is not uncommon for them to deal with their stress by working more, engaging in risky activities, and, most important, turning to alcohol and other drugs, all to avoid or numb the awareness of an underlying problem. Anger, irritability, and social isolation are problems that men will often exhibit but not necessarily identify as problems that need to be rectified.

Depression tends to recur, coming and going with various levels of intensity. Some men can “pass” as emotionally healthy or typically male in their demeanor for years. It is not always a progressive downward spiral but often occurs over time, whereby the “ups” tend to be fewer, and the “downs” seem to be worse. It usually takes a long time for men to seek spousal or professional help. [1]

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Depression in Men Statistics

According to the American Psychological Association, an estimated 9% of men in the United States have feelings of depression or anxiety each day, and 30.6% of men experience a period of depression during their lifetime. [2]


1 in 8 Men

1 in 8 men will have depression, and 1 in 5 men will experience anxiety at some time.

Source: NCBI

Four Times Higher

The suicide rate among males in 2020 was four times higher than the rate among females.

Source: CDC

Over Half of All Veterans

Over half of all Veterans with military sexual trauma and depression are men.

Source: PTSD.VA.GOV


Recognizing the Symptoms of Depression in Men

Different men have different symptoms, but some common depression symptoms [3] include the following:

  • Anger, irritability, or aggressiveness
  • Feeling anxious, restless, or “on edge”
  • Loss of interest in work, family, or once-pleasurable activities
  • Problems with sexual desire and performance
  • Feeling sad, “empty,” flat, or hopeless
  • Not being able to concentrate or remember details
  • Feeling very tired, not being able to sleep, or sleeping too much
  • Overeating or not wanting to eat at all
  • Thoughts of suicide or suicide attempts
  • Physical aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems
  • Inability to meet the responsibilities of work, caring for family, or other important activities
  • Engaging in high-risk activities
  • A need for alcohol or drugs
  • Withdrawing from family and friends or becoming isolated

Not every man who is depressed experiences every symptom. Some men experience only a few symptoms, while others may experience many.

Asking for help can be hard for men. But without treatment, the signs of depression in men are unlikely to go away and may worsen.
Asking for help can be hard for men. But without treatment, the signs of depression in men are unlikely to go away and may worsen.
Ryan Zofay forming a circle and hugging friends.

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Signs of Depression in Men Over 40

While depression and sadness might seem to go hand and hand, many depressed seniors claim not to feel sad at all. They may complain, instead, of low motivation, a lack of energy, or physical problems. However, physical complaints, such as arthritis pain or worsening headaches, are often the predominant symptom of depression in the elderly.

Depression is a common problem among older men, but clinical depression is not normal for aging. Studies show that most older adults feel satisfied with their lives, despite having more illnesses or physical problems than younger people. However, if you’ve experienced depression as a younger person, you may be more likely to have depression as an older adult. Recognizing depression in the elderly starts with knowing the signs and symptoms. Depression red flags include:

  • Loss of self-worth (worries about being a burden, feelings of worthlessness or self-loathing)
  • Increased use of alcohol or other drugs
  • Fixation on death; thoughts of suicide
  • Sadness or feelings of despair
  • Unexplained or aggravated aches and pains
  • Loss of interest in socializing or hobbies
  • Weight loss or loss of appetite
  • Feelings of hopelessness or helplessness
  • Lack of motivation and energy
  • Sleep disturbances (difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, oversleeping, or daytime sleepiness)
  • Slowed movement or speech
  • Memory problems
  • Neglecting personal care (skipping meals, forgetting meds, neglecting personal hygiene)

Many things may be risk factors for depression in men over 40. For some people, changes in the brain can affect mood and result in depression. Others may experience depression after a significant life event, like a medical diagnosis or a loved one’s death. Sometimes, those under a lot of stress — especially people who care for loved ones with a severe illness or disability — can feel depressed. Others may become depressed for no apparent reason. Research [4] has shown that these factors are related to the risk of depression but do not necessarily cause depression:

  • Medical conditions, such as stroke or cancer
  • Genes – people who have a family history of depression may be at higher risk
  • Stress, including caregiver stress
  • Sleep problems
  • Social isolation and loneliness
  • Lack of exercise or physical activity
  • Functional limitations that make engaging in activities of daily living difficult
  • Addiction and alcoholism —included in Substance-Induced Depressive Disorder
Many men don't exhibit typical depression symptoms in men such as a despondent mood, so you may want to avoid using the word “depression” and try describing his behavior as “stressed” or “overly tired.” It could help him to open up.
Many men don’t exhibit typical depression symptoms in men such as a despondent mood, so you may want to avoid using the word “depression” and try describing his behavior as “stressed” or “overly tired.” It could help him to open up.

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Emotional Signs of Depression in Young Men

Depression can show up in young men as prolonged unhappiness or irritability. It is common among older children and teenagers but often goes unrecognized. Some young men might say they feel “unhappy” or “sad.” Others might say they want to hurt or even kill themselves. Young men who experience depression are at greater risk of self-harm, so such responses should always be taken seriously.

Just because a young man seems sad, it doesn’t necessarily mean they have depression. But if the sadness becomes persistent or interferes with normal social activities, interests, schoolwork, or family life, it may mean they need support from a mental health professional.

Remember, only a doctor or a mental health professional can diagnose signs of depression in men, so don’t hesitate to ask your healthcare provider for advice if you are worried about your loved one.

Depression Facts Sheet

Depression is a common illness worldwide, with an estimated 3.8% of the population affected, including 5.0% among adults and 5.7% among adults older than 60 years. Approximately 280 million people in the world have depression. Depression is different from usual mood fluctuations and short-lived emotional responses to challenges in everyday life. Especially when recurrent and with moderate or severe intensity, depression may become a serious health condition. It can cause the affected person to suffer greatly and function poorly at work, at school and in the family. At its worst, depression can lead to suicide. Over 700 000 people die due to suicide every year. Suicide is the fourth leading cause of death in 15-29-year-olds.

Key facts

  • Depression is a common mental disorder. Globally, it is estimated that 5% of adults suffer from depression.
  • Depression is a leading cause of disability worldwide and is a major contributor to the overall global burden of disease.
  • More women are affected by depression than men.
  • Depression can lead to suicide.
  • There is effective treatment for mild, moderate, and severe depression.

Depression results from a complex interaction of social, psychological, and biological factors. People who have gone through adverse life events (unemployment, bereavement, traumatic events) are more likely to develop depression. Depression can, in turn, lead to more stress and dysfunction and worsen the affected person’s life situation and the depression itself. There are interrelationships between depression and physical health. For example, cardiovascular disease can lead to depression and vice versa.

Barriers to effective care include a lack of resources, lack of trained health-care providers and social stigma associated with mental disorders.

Common Symptoms of Depression in Men

Men with depression may first notice its physical effects. While depression is considered a mental health disorder, it can also manifest in the body. 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.

Physical Symptoms of Depression in Men

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:

  • Chest tightness
  • Digestive problems like gas, diarrhea, and constipation
  • Erectile dysfunction and other sexual problems
  • Headaches
  • Hormonal issues like low testosterone
  • Pain
  • Racing heart or heart palpitations
  • Unintended weight loss (and sometimes weight gain)
Symptoms of depression men show often get overlooked as many men find it difficult to talk about their feelings.
Symptoms of depression men show often get overlooked as many men find it difficult to talk about their feelings.

Mental Symptoms of Depression in Men

Mental symptoms of depression may present differently in men than in people of other genders, making depression harder to detect. These symptoms may interfere with how 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

Emotional Symptoms Depression Men Exhibits

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:

  • Agitation
  • Aggression
  • Anger
  • Emotional withdrawal from friends, family, and colleagues
  • Hopelessness
  • Lack of interest in family, community, hobbies, and work
  • Lack of libido
  • Restlessness

Behavioral Signs of Men Depression

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

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Depression Symptoms For Men & How To Overcome Depression

There are likely many factors that inhibit men from seeking help for depression, few of which are fully understood. The way that men think about themselves as men can be unhelpful. Compared with women, they tend to be far more concerned with being competitive, powerful, and successful. Most men do not like to admit that they feel vulnerable or uncertain, so they are less likely to talk about their feelings with their friends, loved ones, or doctors. Data also reveal that men are far more likely to present to the emergency department than to general practice. This relates to men’s denial of illness, longer self-surveillance, and reliance on self-management strategies.

Men tend to feel that they should rely only on themselves and that it is somehow weak to need help or depend on someone else, even for a short time. Evidence suggests that men have difficulty articulating their problems when talking with healthcare providers. The onus is often on the clinician to interpret not only what is said but also the body language and mark of the man to accurately identify depression.

It often takes a wife, partner, or another family member to recognize signs of depression in men. Even if a man suspects he's depressed, he may be ashamed that he cannot cope independently and only seek help when pressured by a loved one.
It often takes a wife, partner, or another family member to recognize signs of depression in men. Even if a man suspects he’s depressed, he may be ashamed that he cannot cope independently and only seek help when pressured by a loved one.

It can also be challenging to identify the symptoms of depression in men, which are influenced by those same social factors and 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.

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Warning Sign Of Depression In Men & When To See A Mental Health Professional?

Even though suicide attempt rates are similar between men and women, men are more likely to succeed. Indeed, the suicide rate among men, in general, is four times higher than that for women. In some populations, including the elderly, the suicide rate among men is more than seven times higher compared with women. Men use more lethal means, including firearms and hanging, yet show fewer warning signs of impending attempts. Thus, a heightened awareness that men are more likely than women to succeed at suicide is required of clinicians to identify those at risk and intervene. [5]

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.

Having a relative or loved one with depression can be stressful, and family members or caregivers may unintentionally act in ways that can worsen their loved one’s symptoms. Call us now for a free mental health assessment! In addition, for the substance abuse or dual diagnosis approach, our inpatient treatmentinpatient medical detox, and residential primary addiction treatment may be available at our affiliated facility. For more treatment resources for the signs of depression in men, call us about your symptoms, and we can help you determine the cause and develop a treatment plan.

Depression Symptoms Men Frequently Asked Questions

When to seek help for the signs of depression in men?

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.

Does depression in men symptoms differ from women?

Yes. As we age, women are more likely to experience stress, sadness, and sleep problems when they’re depressed, while men tend toward irritability and impulsive anger. Men and women also cope with depression differently, with women more likely to seek help.

How long do men depression symptoms last?

Depression is an illness that consists of depressive episodes, like “flares” in people with multiple sclerosis or arthritis. An episode is when an individual has depression symptoms for at least two weeks. The length of an episode can vary. While some people have only one, most people with depression have recurrent episodes throughout their lifetimes, which is why treatment is crucial.

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Sources

[1] Ogrodniczuk JS, Oliffe JL. Men and depression. Can Fam Physician. 2011 Feb;57(2):153-5. PMID: 21321163; PMCID: PMC3038800.

[2] Men and Depression – (NIMH) National Institute of Mental Health

[3] Suicide Data and Statistics – (CDC) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

[4] Depression and Older Adults – National Institute on Aging

[5] Health Canada. A report on mental illnesses in Canada. Ottawa, ON: Health Canada; 2002. Chapter 7: suicide behavior; pp. 91–104. [Google Scholar]