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Signs of depression in men

18 Jun 2020

Men are less likely than women to seek treatment for depression and the signs they experience can differ from typical depression symptoms. Our expert guidance may help you or someone you love reach out for help

Depression is one of the most common mental health problems around the world. Globally, there are more than 264 million people who suffer from the mood disorder. At its worst, depression can lead to suicide.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), almost 800,000 people die by suicide each year and three quarters of those are men. The WHO also reports that Europe has the highest rate of suicide for men in the world.

These are alarming statistics, impacted in part by the fact that men are less likely than women to seek help for depression.

Moreover, depression may manifest in men in a multitude of ways, some of which differ from the traditional symptoms of depression most of us are aware of.

What is depression?

Depression is a serious mood disorder that affects both men and women across all age groups. It manifests as a persistent feeling of sadness, hopelessness and loss of interest in activities you’d normally enjoy.

There are many symptoms – both emotional and physical. In order to be diagnosed with clinical depression, these symptoms need to be present for at least two weeks.

Men and depression

While the common perception is that women suffer more from depression, and statistics reflect that, men are less likely to speak out and seek help. That means large numbers of men with depression may be going undiagnosed.

Sometimes, men do not want to talk about their feelings and therefore may turn to other, potentially destructive ways of coping, says Lina Anderhell, registered Livi psychologist. ‘Their reluctance can be down to not wanting to show themselves as vulnerable.’

Men’s depression may appear different from women’s

Another reason that men don’t often ask for help, says Anderhell, is that they ‘might not recognise themselves in the symptoms that are described.’ For example, the traditional symptoms of depression such as a low or depressed mood, change in sleep patterns and losing pleasure in things that they enjoy, may not be the first thing depressed men notice about their experience.

Men may still feel sad and lose interest in activities they used to enjoy but they may also show other signs that are not necessarily always associated with depression.

Here are some of the signs to look for:

Emotional signs

  • Anger
  • Irritability
  • Frustration
  • Loss of interest in work, social life or hobbies
    Indecisiveness or inability to concentrate

Behavioural signs

  • Aggressive behaviour
  • Withdrawing and isolation
  • Drink and drugs
  • Overworking
  • Suicidal thoughts

Physical signs

  • Sleep problems
  • Changes in appetite and eating
  • Weight changes
  • Unexplained aches and pains
  • Loss of libido
  • Loss of energy
  • Digestive problems

Causes of male depression

The triggers for depression are often similar for both men and women.

Age, economic circumstances, lifestyle, family history and even genetics have been shown to affect your likelihood of developing depression.

There may be a trigger or series of stressful events which can lead to a person becoming depressed.

In men, dealing with any kind of loss is a possible cause which can trigger depression. This could include a relationship breakdown, the death of a loved one or the loss of a job.

Losing status, suffering financial problems or developing an illness can also impact on a man’s masculine identity.

How to approach the subject of mental health

It can be difficult to know how to broach the subject of depression with sensitivity and thoughtfulness. This is particularly hard if the man you’re worried about has withdrawn and is not open about his feelings.

‘What’s important as a partner or friend, is to bring up the subject even if it feels scary,’ says Anderhell. ‘Dare to ask the question, ‘how are you feeling?’’

She suggests expressing what you’ve noticed about their behaviour and what is worrying you. ‘The key thing is not to be blaming but to show support and to ask the person if there’s anything you can do to help them,’ she says.

Be aware that the form of support they want will be very individual. ‘They might just want somebody to listen, or maybe they’d like you to go with them to see a professional,’ Anderhell says.

Self-help

Talking about your problems to friends, family or professionals, avoiding too much alcohol and maintaining a healthy lifestyle are all beneficial for a stable mood. Practicing mindfulness and using mindful techniques can also help as they allow you to step back from a problem and prevent you from getting ‘trapped in your head’.

Exercise has also been shown to help as a workout releases feel-good chemicals called endorphins into our body.

Longer-term, low-intensity exercise has been shown to improve nerve cell connection which can help depression symptoms too.

Treatment for depression

Knowing when to see a doctor is hard, especially as men have a tendency to avoid seeking help. When suffering from depression, it is important to seek help as quickly as possible however. Treatment is often easier and has a shorter process if started on time. A Livi GP can help you to better understand your problems as well as give you advice and support on how to deal with things that today feel difficult.

Treatments for depression vary from psychological support such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and talking therapies to medical treatments such as antidepressant medication for more severe depression.

This article has been reviewed by registered Livi psychologist Lina Anderhell

REVIEWED BY
Hemal Shah
Lead GP, Livi
Last updated:
18 Jun 2020