Men and women both experience depression, but their symptoms can be very different. Because men who are depressed may appear to be angry or aggressive instead of sad, their families, friends, and even their doctors may not always recognize the anger or aggression as depression symptoms. In addition, men are less likely than women to recognize, talk about, and seek treatment for depression. Yet depression affects a large number of men.
What are the signs and symptoms of depression in men?
Different men have different symptoms, but some common depression symptoms include:
• Anger, irritability or aggressiveness
• Feeling anxious, restless or “on the 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.
What causes depression in men?
Depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the U.S. Current research suggests that depression is caused by a combination of risk factors including:
• Genetic factors—men with a family history of depression may be more likely to develop it than those whose family members do not have the illness.
• Environmental Stress—financial problems, loss of a loved one, a difficult relationship, major life changes, work problems, or any stressful situation may trigger depression in some men.
• Illness—depression can occur with other serious medical illnesses, such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease, or Parkinson’s disease. Depression can make these conditions worse and vice versa. Sometimes, medications taken for these illnesses may cause side effects that trigger or worsen depression.
How can I help a loved one who is depressed?
It’s important to remember that a person with depression cannot simply “snap out of it.” It is also important to know that he may not recognize his symptoms and may not want to get professional treatment.
If you think someone has depression, you can support him by helping him find a doctor or mental health professional and then helping him make an appointment. Even men who have trouble recognizing that they are depressed may agree to seek help for physical symptoms, such as feeling tired or run down. They may be willing to talk with their regular health professional about a new difficulty they are having at work or losing interest in doing things they usually enjoy. Talking with a primary care provider may be a good first step toward learning about and treating possible depression.
Other ways to help include:
• Offering him support, understanding, patience and encouragement
• Listening carefully and talking with him
• Never ignoring comments about suicide, and alerting his therapist or doctor
• Helping him increase his level of physical and social activity by inviting him out for hikes, games and other events. If he says, “no,” keep trying, but don’t push him to take on too much too soon
• Encouraging him to report any concerns about medications to his health care provider
• Ensuring that he gets to his doctor’s appointments
• Reminding him that with time and treatment, the depression will lift Where can I go for help?
If you are unsure of where to go for help, ask your family doctor or health care provider. You can also find resources online including the NIMH website at nimh.nih.gov/FindHelp or check with your insurance carrier to find someone who participates in your plan. Hospital doctors can help in an emergency.
What if I or someone I know is in crisis?
Men with depression are at risk for suicide. If you or someone you know is in crisis, get help quickly.
• Call your doctor.
• Call 911 for emergency services.
• Go to the nearest hospital emergency room.
• Call the toll-free, 24-hour hotline of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at
1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255); TTY: 1-800-799- 4TTY (1-800-799-4889).
• Veterans can call the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 then press 1.
In many instances, a crisis can be avoided when friends or family members are involved in the treatment and can recognize crisis warning signs. Crisis warning signs are different for different people. One person may have more trouble sleeping and become more agitated. Another person may sleep more, stop eating, and focus on disturbing thoughts. Creating a plan that lists the loved one’s warning signs—those actions that usually occur before a crisis—and the health care provider’s contact information may help avoid a crisis.
For more information on conditions that affect mental health, resources, and research, visit mentalhealth.gov, or visit the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) website at nimh.nih.gov. In addition, the National Library of Medicine’s Medline Plus service has information on a wide variety of health topics, including conditions that affect mental health.
Whether it is your friend, brother, dad, boyfriend, spouse or boss, show them you care about them and their health by wearing blue.
Men live sicker and die younger. Wear BLUE was created by Men’s Health Network to raise awareness about the importance of male health and to encourage men to live longer and healthier lives.
Men’s health awareness can mean many different things. It means raising awareness of making healthy lifestyle choices, making regular annual visits to the doctor, getting educated on heart disease or diabetes, starting general health conversations with their male friends, and much more.
Read more about Wear BLUE at menshealthnetwork.org/wearblue/. Men’s Health Network is a national non-profit organization whose mission is to reach men and their families with health awareness messages where they live, work, pray, and play.