Depression is sometimes considered a female disease, and indeed is diagnosed in women twice as often as in men. However, the gender difference may not be entirely due to women’s being more susceptible. The signs of depression are frequently different in men, and the illness may go undiagnosed if a man is not displaying well-known symptoms such as self-isolation or obvious black moods. That doesn’t, however, mean he is suffering any less. It’s important to learn the signs of depression in men to get lifesaving help in a timely fashion.
Typical Signs of Depression in Men
Whether due to natural gender tendencies or fear of seeming “unmanly,” men are less likely than women to show obvious unhappiness or self-doubt. A more typical response is to “cope” by striving harder and becoming noticeably stressed. A man may be suffering from depression if he displays the following symptoms, especially if they differ significantly from formerly typical behavior:
- Chronic workaholism
- Physical health complaints (migraines, ulcers, etc.)
- Frequent bursts of temper, especially over relatively unimportant things
- Regularly blaming others for his frustrations
- Abusive behavior toward family members, partners or subordinates
- Seeming constantly mad at the world for no obvious reason
- Drinking heavily or using illegal drugs
- Frequent reckless behavior
Reckless behavior in particular may be a precursor to an active suicide attempt.
Depression and Suicide in Men
Anyone who struggles with depression is at increased risk for death by suicide, and like depression itself, typical suicidal ideation and behavior are different in men than in women. Although women attempt suicide more often, men are at far greater risk of succeeding, because:
- While women tend to opt for “quiet” approaches such as intentional drug overdose (which often fail to kill because help arrives in time), men often reach for instantly lethal methods such as guns.
- Men are more likely to act decisively and/or impulsively.
- Men often show fewer warning signs before a suicide attempt: they are less likely to ask for help or to let themselves reveal obvious hints of needing it.
Even without suicide attempts or reckless behavior, a man suffering from depression may be slowly killing himself through internal stress and the bottling up of emotions. Anyone with depression needs professional help, but men are less likely to receive it because of tendencies to downplay their symptoms and resist discussing their feelings.
What to Do: If You Suspect a Loved One Has Depression
If you’re close to a man who’s showing symptoms of depression, the worst thing to do is nag him to seek treatment, which will only increase his resistance by provoking arguments. What you can do is express your concerns honestly and be as empathetic as possible. It may help to suggest counseling for the family as a unit (treating the whole family is always a good idea anyway) and to frame this as a favor to you (men naturally take to helping solve others’ problems). If you suspect he may be suicidal, get immediate advice from a mental health specialist.
One caveat: if your loved one’s depression symptoms include physically abusive behavior, keep your distance for your own safety. If you share a household and he refuses to get immediate help, the best thing is for you (and any dependents in the household) to move out until you have solid evidence things are changing for the better.
What to Do: If You’re a Man with Depression
If you’re a man who suspects you have depression, the best and bravest thing to do is admit it and seek help. Know that there’s strength in admitting weakness. If you don’t know anyone to trust with your struggles, ask your doctor for advice, or call a helpline. Look into mental-illness peer-support options designed specifically for men.
What to Do: Once You Start the Road to Recovery
Treatment for depression means long-term counseling and often medication; but there’s much an individual can do to help himself on the road to recovery. Put that action-oriented male temperament to good use by:
- Getting plenty of physical exercise
- Incorporating variety into your week: creating a schedule that includes work, rest and fun activities
- Spending time with friends and family
- Seeking challenges that fit your natural passions
- Analyzing what really makes you feel fulfilled (not simply “successful”) and planning your goals accordingly
- Remembering that you can get better and enjoy long-term freedom from depression
- Avoiding the use of drugs and alcohol to cope with life’s challenges
Hope and Healing
Depression frequently co-occurs with drug addiction, and both problems must be treated to ensure full recovery from either. Cumberland Heights specializes in transforming lives through treatment approaches customized for individual needs. Contact us today to learn more or request admission.