Clinical depression—in women or men—can cause sadness and a loss of interest in once pleasurable activities. But depression can sometimes manifest in different ways in different people.
While the symptoms used to diagnose depression are the same regardless of gender, often the chief complaint can be different among men and women.
You can’t go after one symptom, but instead have to assess a group of symptoms. Here are signs of depression in men.
Although men don’t always talk about feelings of depression, depression in men is common. Learn about the symptoms of clinical or major depression in men
Instead of seeming down, men who are depressed often show signs of irritability. If they talk about an emotional component, it could be sadness with irritability. In addition, negative thoughts are a common aspect of depression. Men will report feeling irritable because they are having negative thoughts constantly.
Men might be more likely to report symptoms of depression as stress. It’s not that they have more stress; it’s that it’s more socially acceptable to report it. Stress and depression can also travel a two-way street. It’s accurate to say that feeling stressed can be an indicator of having clinical depression but also be part of the cause. Research has shown that prolonged exposure to stress can lead to changes both in the body and brain, which can in turn lead to depression.
Anger or hostility
Some men manifest depression by being hostile, angry, or aggressive. A man who realizes something is wrong may need to compensate by demonstrating that he is still strong or capable. Anger and hostility are different than irritability. Anger tends to be a stronger emotion. Irritability is a crankiness. Men can also become hostile when they have withdrawn as a result of their depression and feel under pressure by friends or family to rejoin society.
Depression is a common reason for loss of desire and erectile dysfunction (ED), and it’s one symptom that men are inclined not to report. Performance problems can come from depression and make depression worse. However, ED can be the result of other medical conditions or medications (including antidepressants), and ED by itself does not signal depression.
Substance abuse frequently accompanies depression. Research has shown that alcoholics are almost twice as likely to suffer from major depression as people without a drinking problem. It can happen for both men and women, but using drugs or alcohol to mask uncomfortable feelings is a strategy many men will employ instead of seeking health care. There’s a cultural bias of, ‘I should be able to fix this myself and so I’ll use what chemicals I have available to me to do that.
Psychomotor retardation can slow down a man’s ability to process information, thereby impairing concentration on work or other tasks. Depression fills one with negative thoughts, almost like an intrusion. You’re slowed down and constantly thinking about negative things in your world. As a result it makes it very difficult to focus on anything. Depression is as a form of reversible brain failure.
People who are depressed undergo a series of physical and emotional changes. They can experience fatigue, as well as psychomotor retardation, or a slowing down of physical movements, speech, and thought processes. Men are more likely than women to report fatigue and other physical symptoms of depression as their chief complaints.
Sleeping too much or too little
Sleep problems—such as insomnia, waking up very early in the morning, or excessive sleeping—are common depression symptoms. [Some people] sleep 12 hours a day and still feel exhausted or toss and turn and wake up every two hours.
Like fatigue, sleep troubles are one of the main symptoms that depressed men may discuss with their doctor, experts say.
Stomachache or backache
Health problems such as constipation or diarrhea, as well as headaches and back pain, are common in people who are depressed. But men often don’t realize that chronic pain and digestive disorders go hand in hand with depression, according to focus groups conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health. People who are depressed do genuinely feel bad physically.
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