Understanding the Signs and Symptoms of Depression in Men: Men’s Mental Health Awareness Month

As June is Men’s Mental Health Awareness Month, it feels like an appropriate time for us to shed light on the aspects of mental health that are often overlooked and/or misunderstood in men. Although society has made great strides in the awareness of mental health issues, the signs and symptoms of depression in men can often be hard to recognize. As you read on, we will delve deeper into these signs and symptoms ensuring that more men, and those that care about them, can identify their depression early and seek support.

The Significance of Men’s Mental Health Awareness Month

Before we get started on what to look for, it is important to touch on why Men’s Mental Health Awareness Month matters to stop and recognize. It is dedicated to raising awareness about mental health issues specific to men. As a society, we have built an environment where some men feel that reaching out for help or being open about their mental health struggles paints them as weak because they are expected to be strong all the time and constantly have that tough exterior. It’s why we often see a major difference in the display of depressive symptoms between men and women – men are typically more outward (risky behavior, anger outbursts, irritable). Women typically present themselves more inward by keeping their symptoms contained and close, showing the classic depressive symptoms but trying to keep it together on the outside, and are more likely to reach out for help.

Men’s Mental Health Awareness Month aims to break this stigma that it is weak for men to reach out for help or weak for them to express what they are really feeling instead of showing it through other behaviors. Fostering an environment where this is possible is essential in paving the way for accessible and effective treatment.

Why Depression in Men is Often Unnoticed

Although depression is unfortunately extremely common, with approximately 21 million Americans being diagnosed in 2021, its presentation is different in each person and especially between genders as we touched on in the prior paragraph. When men exhibit the behaviors we discussed above, they are often mischaracterized or even misdiagnosed as other issues. For example, if a man is displaying extreme irritability, his family may chalk it up to stress from work, or that he is no longer happy in his marriage, or deem him simply unreasonable.

Please don’t mistake or justify physical or emotional abuse thinking it is a depression symptom. If you need support in this situation, dial 911 if you are in immediate danger or call your local shelter.

Recognizing the Signs and Symptoms of Depression in Men

1. Emotional Symptoms

As we mentioned earlier, depression in women can often manifest as physical signs of sadness like crying or not taking care of themselves physically, while men might display emotional symptoms differently.

Irritability and Anger: Instead of sad, they may display more irritable, snippy, brash, or even just overt anger. This could be a defense mechanism to mask their deeper emotions.

Anxiety: Men experiencing depression often also feel anxiety which leads to further stress and tension.

Lack of Interest: A noticeable lack of interest in the things they used to enjoy and do frequently such as hobbies or socializing.

2. Physical Symptoms

Depression can manifest with physical symptoms, and in men especially, are often mistaken for health issues, such as high blood pressure, emotional lability, or even erectile dysfunction.

Fatigue: Persistent lack of energy even after a full night’s sleep is a common sign of depression in men.

Sleep Disturbances: On the other hand, disturbances like insomnia, or even excessive sleeping are both something to take note of.

Noticeable Changes in Appetite and/or Weight: Men with depression might experience loss of appetite and weight loss or the opposite with excessive eating and weight gain without caring either way.

3. Behavioral Symptoms

Substance Abuse: Excessive drinking or drug use may be an indicator they are trying to numb or run away from what they are truly dealing with.

Risky Behaviors: Behaviors that are out of character for the individual and are by design, risky, show a lack of caring of the outcome and consequence and that attitude is a telltale sign of depression.

Social Isolation: Withdrawing from their friends, family, and social interactions leading to isolation, making depression symptoms worse.

4. Cognitive Symptoms

Depression, of course, affects cognitive function making it hard to think clearly.

Difficulty Concentrating: Men experiencing difficulty concentrating leads to decreased productivity, and as we’ve spoken about, there has been a societal expectation that men need to produce, especially at work. A decrease in productivity can lead to extreme frustration and feed the other depression symptoms tenfold.

Indecisiveness: Making even simple decisions can become overwhelming for men experiencing depression. If you begin to notice this in yourself or someone in your life, it is a good opportunity to check in and ask if they are okay.

Negative Thought Patterns: Persistent negative thought patterns about self, day-to-day, and just their general outlook on life is common in men experiencing depression.

The Impact of Depression on Men’s Lives

The signs and symptoms of depression in men reach further than some realize.

Relationships: Irritability, anger, and withdrawal is more likely than not to strain relationships – romantic and platonic.

Work Performance: Decreased concentration, lack of interest, and fatigue all negatively contribute to a person’s work performance, leading to potential job loss and/or financial instability.

Physical Health: The physical symptoms linked to depression often end up leading to health issues with weight gain leading to high blood pressure, diabetes, low self-esteem, or even excessive weight loss leading to nutrient loss and implications around physically feeling weak.

Seeking Help

One of the primary goals of Men’s Mental Health Month is to break the stigma associated with men’s mental health. Encouraging open discussions about the signs and symptoms can help normalize these experiences and make it easier for men to seek help. Here are a few ways men can seek support.

Professional Help: Seeking help from a mental health professional – this can include talk therapy, medication, TMS therapy, or a combination tailored to the individual’s needs.

Support Groups: Joining a support group can foster a sense of community and reduce feelings of isolation that men often experience when dealing with mental health struggles.

Lifestyle Changes: Sometimes hitting rock bottom or feeling like you are at rock bottom is a great time to take stock of your life and clean out the bad stuff. The bad people, the bad food, the bad drinks, the dust, the clutter! It is amazing the impact these changes can have on a person’s mental state.

Supporting Men with Depression

If you believe a man in your life is dealing with depression, there are multiple ways to offer support:

Be there: Simply be there, listen intentionally without judgment. Ask questions, and actively listen to the answers.

Encourage professional help: Encourage and support professional help to make sure they are getting the support they need from qualified professionals.

Promote healthy habits: Help them eat healthier, clean their space, exercise, declutter. Sweat together, stay together! Extend the invite, and positively reinforce good decisions.

Final Thoughts

Recognizing the signs and symptoms of depression in men is a crucial step toward improving mental health outcomes and breaking the stigma of men’s mental health. During Men’s Mental Health Awareness Month, let’s commit to paying attention, understanding, and supporting the mental health of the men in our lives and communities. By allowing open conversations we can create an environment where men feel empowered to seek help when they need it.