Men and Depression: Recognizing the Symptoms

By Rebecca Jones

It is common knowledge that depression can be a leading cause of erectile dysfunction but if you think Men don’t want to talk about their physical problems it probably won’t come as a surprise that they are even less likely to talk about their emotional ones. Often time’s depression is seen as a problem only affecting women and while statistically a greater number of women are afflicted, suicide is now the 9th leading cause of death in men over 40. Not only are men unwilling to talk about depression, their friends and doctors often times don’t recognize the symptoms that they exhibit.

Missing the Symptoms

In a study done in the 90’s men and women were asked to fill out a questionnaire and their primary doctors were asked to determine whether the patient was depressed. The results were shocking; men went undiagnosed 67% of the time.  Culturally men have been raised to believe that they must act strong in all situations. Too often asking for help or wanting to talk about feelings is seen as a feminine behavior. Men tend to hide their feelings of sadness under a layer of bravado. Even when doctors suspect that there are underlying issues many admit that they don’t bring up the subject for fear of embarrassing their male patients. Even our conception about what depression looks like is off the mark for men. We know that symptoms of depression include becoming withdrawn and losing interest in things we used to enjoy, but often time’s male depression can manifest itself in a very different way.

(also read: Erectile Dysfunction linked to the Health of Your Heart)

Signs that the Man in Your Life is struggling with Depression

To compensate for feelings that cannot be addressed many men will turn to behaviors that are the opposite of the isolated quiet behavior we associate with depression. Some men will turn to work, putting in extra long hours. Others will engage is risky behavior like drugs, gambling, and extramarital affairs. Still others can develop a temper lashing out at family and picking fights with strangers.  Finally depression has a list of physical symptoms that are often misdiagnosed. Headaches, fatigue, decreased libido, erectile dysfunction, and digestive problems are just a few of the ways depression can manifest itself in the body.

Ways to Deal with Male Depression

Often time’s men let depression go untreated for so long they may not even realize that their feelings aren’t normal, but without help depression is unlikely to go away on its own. Just because men are reluctant to seek help for depression it does not mean that help is unavailable. Therapy is not designed to be gender biased and if we can break through the stigma surrounding men opening up about their feelings talk therapy can be extremely helpful. When therapy is unsuccessful there are also many well tested and effective medications on the market to treat depression. Unfortunately until men feel that it is safe for them to set aside their bravado and open up about the things that trouble them too many will remain at risk from not only suicide but the consequences of risky coping behaviors. Male Depression isn’t just a man’s problem it affects our whole society so next time, before we pass off the drinking or the affair as a sign of a midlife crisis, we should look and see if there are underlying feelings of depression altering the behavior of the men we love.