Medically reviewed by Vicky Davis, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 8/19/2021
Depression is one of the most common mental illnesses for men, with research using a "gender inclusive depression scale" finding that 30.6 percent of men face depression symptoms at some point in their lives.
Although many symptoms of depression are the same in men and women, some symptoms can manifest very differently.
In some cases, these symptoms can cause anger or aggression rather than the typical sadness and reduced interest in life that’s often associated with depression.
By identifying the mental and physical signs of depression as early as possible, you can seek expert help and make real progress towards recovery.
Below, we’ve discussed what depression is and listed the most common signs of depression in men.
We’ve also explained what you can do if you’re feeling depressed and want to get help from a mental health specialist.
Clinical depression, or major depressive disorder (MDD), is a serious mood disorder that can change the way you think, feel and behave.
It’s normal to occasionally feel sad or unhappy. Usually, when these feelings appear, they fade away on their own over the course of several days.
People with depression have severe, continuous symptoms that have a negative effect on their moods, thoughts and feelings.
To be diagnosed with depression, these symptoms need to last for at least two weeks.
Research has identified several factors that can contribute to depression in men, including the following:
Genetics. Although experts haven’t identified a “depression gene,” research shows that men with family members who’ve been diagnosed with depression may be more likely to develop this mental illness than men without a family history of depression.
Stress. Depression is often caused by environmental stressors, such as a demanding or highly competitive workplace, financial difficulties, relationship issues, the loss of a loved one or other situations that cause stress.
Illnesses and medical conditions. Some illnesses, such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes, are associated with an increased risk of depression.
Medications. Some medications, including those used to treat the illnesses above, may contribute to an increased risk of depression in men.
If you’re worried that you might have depression, it’s important to seek mental health treatment as soon as you can.
The sooner you reach out, the sooner you’ll be able to start treating your depression symptoms and making progress towards recovery.
Depression can cause a range of symptoms that affect both your mind and your body. You may experience these symptoms all at once, or notice a gradual change in how you feel and behave over a period of several weeks.
Below, we’ve explained the most common symptoms of depression in men, as well as how each symptom can affect your feelings, thoughts and behavior.
Depression can cause you to feel sad, hopeless and empty. Unlike a normal poor mood, these symptoms can persist for weeks at a time and be so severe that they have a noticeable impact on your day-to-day functioning.
You may notice that you feel down just about all the time, even in situations that would normally cause you to feel happy and unworried.
When you’re depressed, you may feel anxious or restless. These feelings may persist, even in situations that would normally cause you to feel relaxed. Some people with depression feel like they’re often “on the edge.”
In men, depression sometimes manifests as irritability and anger. You may notice that you get frustrated easily and have a persistent irritable mood.
For some men, depression can result in aggressive behavior, such as angry outbursts.
Depression can have several effects on your sleep patterns, including insomnia (difficulty falling or staying asleep) and hypersomnia (an excessive amount of time spent sleeping).
If you’re depressed, you may find that you just can’t fall asleep normally. Your sleep habits may change as you find it difficult to stick to your normal bedtime routines.
Alternatively, you may fall asleep normally, but wake up unprompted early in the morning.
In contrast, some men with depression feel an excessive need to sleep. You may find that you can’t wake up at your normal time without feeling tired, or that you need to sleep during the day to feel normal -- an issue called excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS).
Research has found that depression can affect your sleep architecture, which may cause you to feel less rested.
These changes in your sleep habits and ability to sleep can affect your energy levels, mood and general quality of life.
People with depression often find it difficult to concentrate on specific tasks. You may feel less able to pay attention while working, or find it difficult to remember details, process information or make decisions.
Depression can also affect your executive functioning -- your ability to adjust your thoughts and behavior in response to change, set goals and take the initiative to get things done.
If you have depression, you may begin to feel less interested in your hobbies. Activities that you used to enjoy may no longer feel exciting or enjoyable.
You may find that you spend less time on these activities due to a general lack of interest or motivation.
Depression may also cause you to lose interest in your professional life, or experience difficulty meeting your work or educational responsibilities.
When you’re depressed, you may feel less interested in socializing with other people, including your close friends and family members.
People with depression often withdraw from relationships and spend little time with others. This may cause feelings of isolation.
It’s common for people with depression to report experiencing negative social interactions and feeling a lesser sense of belonging in social environments.
Depression can affect your appetite and eating habits, causing you to eat more or less than you normally would. This may affect your weight and body composition.
If you have depression, you may feel a need to eat more than you normally would. Some people with depression develop a reduced appetite.
Research has found that depression may affect the way that certain parts of the brain respond to images of food.
Although most signs of depression are mental, depression may also cause physical symptoms such as aches, pains, headaches and cramps.
If you’re depressed, you may find that your muscles, joints or other parts of your body feel sore, without any obvious cause.
Research also shows that people with depression often experience digestive issues, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and ulcerative colitis (UC).
In men, depression often causes changes in libido and sexual performance. In fact, research has found that more than 60 percent of men with depression may experience forms of sexual dysfunction, such as low sex drive, orgasm problems and reduced sexual satisfaction.
Studies have also established a clear link between depression and an elevated risk of erectile dysfunction (ED), although the causal relationship (whether it’s depression that causes ED, or ED that causes depression) isn’t completely clear.
If you’re depressed, you may become more likely to take part in high-risk activities that can lead to injury or other health issues.
High-risk behaviors are particularly associated with depression in adolescents.
If you’re depressed, you may feel more of a need to consume alcohol excessively or engage in substance abuse.
Depression is closely associated with substance use disorders, including alcohol use disorders (AUD). In alcohol-dependent people, depression can lead to increased drinking, often to help provide relief from other depression symptoms.
Other research has found that depression may contribute to an increased risk of developing an alcohol use disorder.
Not everyone experiences depression the same way. Some forms of depression cause unique symptoms, or develop in specific circumstances.
Common forms of depression that can affect men include:
Major depressive disorder. Also referred to as major depression or clinical depression, this form of depression can affect just about every aspect of your life. It may only occur once, or develop several times during your life.
Persistent depressive disorder. Also referred to as dysthymia, this form of long-lasting depression involves symptoms that continue for two years or longer. The symptoms of this form of depression may be less severe than those of major depressive disorder.
Minor depression. This form of depression involves more mild symptoms. Men with minor depression may have several depressive symptoms that do not meet the criteria for major depressive disorder, but still cause significant issues in life.
Seasonal affective disorder. This form of depression involves symptoms that appear temporarily during winter as natural light levels decrease, then improve as the seasons change.
Psychotic depression. This severe form of depression involves psychotic symptoms, such as hallucinations and delusions. A person with this form of depression may take on false, negative beliefs about their health or other personal characteristics.
Our guide to the types of depression provides more information about the depressive disorders above and their specific symptoms.
Depression, even when it’s severe and persistent, can almost always be treated. Unfortunately, many men with depression or other mental health issues avoid addressing their symptoms and as a result, never actively reach out for help.
If you’ve recently felt depressed, or if you have persistent depression symptoms, it’s important to talk to a mental health professional.
One way to seek help is to contact your primary healthcare provider. They’ll be able to discuss your symptoms with you and, if appropriate, refer you to a specialist in mental health for further assistance.
Another option is to reach out directly to a mental health provider. You can do this by getting in contact with a mental health professional locally, or by using telehealth services like our online psychiatry service to connect with a licensed psychiatry provider from your home.
If contacting a healthcare provider directly doesn’t feel right for you, reach out to your partner, a trusted friend or a family member.
Not only can a close, trusted person help you by providing support -- they can also assist you to seek out a mental health professional for a depression screening.
Depression in men and women is usually treated with antidepressants, psychotherapy, lifestyle changes or a combination of different approaches.
Several different types of antidepressants are prescribed to treat depression, including selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) and others.
These medications work by increasing the amount of certain chemicals in your brain that affect the way you think, feel and behave.
You may need to use medication for several weeks before you experience any changes in your symptoms. Make sure to follow your healthcare provider’s instructions and use your medication as directed.
Our full list of antidepressants provides more information about the most common medications used to treat depression.
The symptoms of depression often improve with psychotherapy. Several forms of therapy are used to treat depression, including cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), interpersonal therapy (IPT) and action-oriented treatments such as problem-solving therapy.
Our guide to therapy for depression goes into more detail about how therapy can produce real improvements and help you to recover from depression.
Making changes to your habits and lifestyle can often make the symptoms of depression less severe and help you to work towards recovery.
Simple things such as exercising regularly and eating a healthy, balanced diet may make your recovery from depression more effective and help to prevent relapse.
Experts often suggest setting realistic goals to work towards during recovery and setting aside time to spend with friends and family.
Small things, such as taking part in group activities and socializing with friends, can often make a big difference.
Depression is a serious mental illness that can cause a wide range of symptoms, from feelings of sadness, hopelessness and anxiety to irritation, aggressive behavior, difficulty falling asleep and a general loss of interest in certain aspects of life.
It’s important to seek expert help if you’re currently experiencing any symptoms of depression, especially if your symptoms have lasted for longer than two weeks.
You can seek help by reaching out to your partner, a trusted friend, or family member. You can also access expert help online using our range of mental health services, including psychiatry and online counseling.