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Depression in Men: Understanding Male Depression

Depression in men can be hard to spot as depressed men often cover up symptoms. Male depression is a real illness; however, and needs treatment. Read more.

Depression is an illness that affects both men and women. But people working in mental health services see far fewer men with depression. It seems likely men suffer from depression just as often as women, but they are less likely to ask for help. Male depression is treatable and best treated as early as possible. Men need to know answers to: what is depression and how to get effective help.

Depression in Men is Different

Men think of themselves differently than women and this can be quite unhelpful. Compared with women, they tend to be far more concerned with being competitive, powerful and successful. Most men don't like to admit they feel fragile or vulnerable, and so are less likely to talk about their feelings with their friends, loved ones or their doctors. This may be the reason depressed men often don't ask for help. Men tend to feel they should rely only on themselves and it is somehow weak to have to depend on someone else, even for a short time.

This traditional view of how men should be - always tough and self-reliant - is also held by some women. Some depressed men actually find their partner rejects them because of their depression. Even professionals sometimes share this view, and may not diagnose depression in men when they should.

Symptoms of Depression in Men

  • Feeling sad or unhappy
  • High levels of anxiety
  • Low energy
  • Difficulties concentrating
  • Feeling worthless or hopeless
  • Losing interest in activities or people
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Loss of sex drive
  • Lapses in personal hygiene, such as not bathing or shaving as regularly
  • Thoughts of suicide

The symptoms for some types of male depression may also include extreme opposites of those listed above; for example, unusually high or prolonged levels of energy, significant weight gain and so on.

Other people may notice:

  • You are performing less well at work
  • You seem unusually quiet, unable to talk about things
  • You're worrying about things more than usual
  • You're more irritable than usual
  • You're complaining more about vague physical problems

Read more comprehensive information about male depression symptoms.

How Depressed Men Cope

Instead of talking about how they feel, depressed men may try to make themselves feel better by using alcohol or drugs. This will usually make things worse in the long run. Their work will suffer and alcohol often leads to irresponsible, unpleasant or dangerous behavior. Men with depression also tend to give their work a higher priority than their home life, which produces conflicts with their wives or partners. All of these things have been shown to make depression more likely.

Depressed Men and Relationships

For married men, research has shown trouble in a marriage is the single most common problem connected with depression. Depressed men can't cope with disagreements as well as women. Arguments actually make men feel very physically uncomfortable. So, they try to avoid arguments or difficult discussions. Depression in men often leads to the situation where a man's partner will want to talk about a problem, but he will not and will do his best to avoid talking about it. The partner feels they are being ignored and tries to talk about it more, which makes the depressed man feel he is being nagged. So, he withdraws even more, which makes his partner feel even more that they are being ignored . . . and so on. This vicious circle in male depression can quite easily destroy a relationship.

Male Depression and Separation / Divorce

Men have traditionally seen themselves as being the leaders in their family lives. However, the process of separation and divorce is most often started by women. Of all men, those who are divorced are most likely to kill themselves, probably because depression is more common and more severe in this group. This may be because, as well as losing their main relationship, depressed men often lose touch with their children, may have to move to live in a different place, and often find themselves hard-up for money. These are stressful events in themselves, quite apart from the stress of the break-up, and are likely to bring on male depression.

Depressed Men and Sex

Depressed men feel less good about their bodies and less sexy than when they're not depressed. Many just go off sex completely. Several recent studies suggest that, in spite of this, men who are depressed have intercourse just as often, but they don't feel as satisfied as usual. A few depressed men actually report increased sexual drive and intercourse, possibly as a way of trying to make themselves feel better. Another problem in male depression may be that some antidepressant drugs reduce sex-drive in a small number of men who take them.1

However, the good news is that, as the depression improves, so will your sexual desire, performance and satisfaction.

It's worth remembering that it can happen the other way round. Impotence (difficulty in getting or keeping an erection) can be a cause of depression in men. Again, this is a problem for which it is usually possible to find effective help.

Pregnancy and Children and Depression in Men

We have known for many years some mothers feel severely depressed after having a child. It is only recently we have realized more than 1 in 10 men also suffer depression during this time. This shouldn't really be surprising. We know that major events in people's lives, even good ones like moving house, can bring about a period of depression in men and women. And this particular event changes your life more than any other. Suddenly, you have to spend much more of your time looking after your partner, and the children.

On an intimate level, new mothers tend to be less interested in sex for a number of months. Simple tiredness is the main problem, although men may take it personally and feel they are being rejected. Men may have to adjust, perhaps for the first time, to taking second place in your partner's affections. Men also find they have to spend less time at work. Paternity leave is still quite unusual in the most parts of the world.

Depression in new fathers is more common if their partner is depressed, if they aren't getting along with their partner, or if they are unemployed. This isn't important just from the father's point of view. Male depression will affect the mother and may have an important impact on how the baby grows and develops in the first few months. (more information about: postpartum depression in men)


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Last Updated: 12 April 2017
Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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