Depression symptoms in men may look quite different from expectations, which can lead to underdiagnosis and barriers to treatment.
The symptoms of depression in men can get overlooked, even in a doctor’s office. Depression is underdiagnosed in men and may be more common than expected.
According to the
Men may be reluctant to talk about depression and are less likely to seek help, contributing to underdiagnosis. Receiving support is essential — effective treatments are available and can significantly boost your quality of life.
We use “women” and “men” in this article to reflect the terms that have been historically used to gender people. But your gender identity may not align with the recommendations and risk factors listed below. Your doctor can better help you understand your recommendations and how your specific circumstances will translate into diagnosis, symptoms, and treatment.
According to the
Depression is characterized by a period of at least 2 weeks when you experience a depressed mood or loss of interest in daily activities. Specific symptoms of depression can include:
- problems with sleep
- changes in eating habits
- lack of exercise
- difficulty concentrating
- low self-worth
Though depression is often associated with crying and low mood, these might not be the most obvious signs in men.
Men with depressive symptoms may mask or ignore difficult emotions by overworking, overexercising, substance use, or changes in sexual behavior. Diagnosis and treatment are less accessible to men, which contributes to higher rates of suicide in men than women.
While substance use can accompany depression in all genders, men may be more likely to lean on substances to manage their emotions than women. Anger attacks associated with substance use are more characteristic of depression in men than women.
Men may be
Women are more likely to attempt suicide, while men are more likely to die by suicide. Men tend to use more lethal means. This may be partly due to lower treatment rates and diagnosis in men.
Help is available
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, you’re not alone. Help is available right now:
- Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 24 hours a day at 800-273-8255.
- Text “HOME” to the Crisis Textline at 741741.
Not in the United States? Find a helpline in your country with Befrienders Worldwide.
Symptom differences in adolescence
Women are diagnosed with depression
Many believe that traditional depression criteria could be biased toward detecting symptoms in women.
Some men may be reluctant to report traditional symptoms like crying, as this may not be considered “masculine.” Some men may see depression as a “feminine” illness, preventing some masculine people from seeking help and getting a diagnosis.
Some research suggests that if the criteria for a diagnosis of depression were changed, there would be a higher rate of diagnosis of depression among men. For example,
The researchers also conducted analyses using a scale that included both traditional and alternative depression symptoms, finding that men and women met the criteria for depression in relatively equal proportions: 30.6% of men and 33.3% of women.
Finding depression treatments that work for you — which may include therapy, medication, or a combination of these methods — can set you on your journey to wellness.
There are also some things you can do at home. Lifestyle changes can provide an excellent source of depression prevention and symptom relief alongside your main treatments.
For example, a 2020 study suggests that men who engaged in 150 minutes of activity per week were less likely to experience depression. Another
Many studies in this area are correlation studies, which means they don’t show that exercise or diet can directly lead to less depression. It may also be that those who eat well and exercise tend to have better health and coping behaviors overall.
Other studies — including a 2008 meta-analysis — suggest that exercise could directly reduce depression. Overall, more research is needed before scientists know the actual effects of exercise and diet on depression.
If you or someone you love is experiencing symptoms of depression, reaching out to a healthcare professional can help you get the proper support. Though it might not feel easy, depression is one of the most common mental health conditions, and there’s no shame in seeking help.
If reaching out to a therapist is too much right now, consider opening to a trusted friend or colleague who might understand. Talking about what’s bothering you can be a decisive first step.
Looking for mental health support, but you’re unsure where to start? Consider checking out Psych Central’s Find a Therapist resource page or the American Psychological Association search tool to find a psychologist.
For more information about how depression affects men, Heads Up Guys offer many resources for men and their loved ones.