Male depression: Understanding the issues

Male depression is a serious medical condition, but many men try to ignore it or refuse treatment. Learn the signs and symptoms — and what to do. By Mayo Clinic Staff

Do you feel irritable, isolated or withdrawn? Do you find yourself working all the time? Drinking too much? These unhealthy coping strategies may be clues that you have male depression.

Depression can affect men differently than it does women. When depression occurs in men, it may be masked by unhealthy coping behavior. For a number of reasons, male depression often goes undiagnosed and can have devastating consequences when it goes untreated. But male depression usually gets better with treatment.

Male depression signs and symptoms

Depression signs and symptoms can differ in men and women. Men also tend to use different coping skills — both healthy and unhealthy — than women do. It isn't clear why men and women may experience depression differently. It likely involves a number of factors, including brain chemistry, hormones and life experiences.

Like women, men with depression may feel blue, feel extremely tired, have difficulty sleeping and not get pleasure from activities they once enjoyed. But other behaviors in men that could be signs of depression — but not recognized as such — include:

  • Escapist behavior, such as spending a lot of time at work or on sports
  • Alcohol or substance abuse
  • Controlling, violent or abusive behavior
  • Irritability or inappropriate anger
  • Risky behavior, such as reckless driving

Because these behaviors could be signs of or might overlap with other mental health issues, professional help is the key to an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

Male depression often goes undiagnosed

Men with depression often aren't diagnosed for several reasons. Some of them include:

  • Failure to recognize depression. You may think that feeling sad or emotional is always the main symptom of depression. But for many men that isn't the primary depression symptom. For example, headaches, digestive problems, fatigue, irritability or chronic pain can sometimes indicate depression. So can feeling isolated and seeking distraction to avoid dealing with feelings or relationships.
  • Downplaying signs and symptoms. You may not recognize how much your symptoms affect you, or you may not want to admit to yourself or to anyone else that you're depressed. But ignoring, suppressing or masking depression with unhealthy behavior won't make it go away.
  • Reluctance to discuss depression symptoms. As a man, you may not be open to talking about your feelings with family or friends, let alone with a health care professional. Like many men, you may have learned to emphasize self-control. You may think it's not manly to express feelings and emotions associated with depression, and instead you try to suppress them.
  • Resisting mental health treatment. Even if you suspect you have depression, you may avoid diagnosis or refuse treatment. You may avoid getting help because you're worried that the stigma of depression could damage your career or cause family and friends to lose respect for you.

Male depression and suicide

Although women attempt suicide more often than men do, men are more likely to complete suicide. That's because men:

  • Use methods that are more likely to be lethal, such as guns
  • Act more quickly on suicidal thoughts
  • Show fewer warning signs, such as talking about suicide
May. 15, 2013 See more In-depth