Depression in men is real and impacts life substantially. However, it often goes unnoticed, by both the man and those who care about him. When the “d” word is used, the response is immediate, “No, I am not depressed!” As a therapist who specializes in working with men, there are common warning signs of depression I look for. A man won’t use words like depression or sadness, but he may identify as:
- Feeling overburdened by life’s responsibilities and expectations.
- Having limited patience and being irritable.
- Being overly tired or not having the energy he once had.
- Sleeping too much or too little.
- Eating too much and not taking care of himself.
- Having few if any close interpersonal relationships outside of spouse.
- Feeling inadequate, incapable, or incompetent.
*See below to learn more about each of the seven warning signs of depression in men.
- Feeling overburdened by life’s responsibilities and expectations. Men are like pick-up trucks. They are built to work and haul loads (life responsibilities). In fact, just like a pick-up, if there’s no load in the back, their handling can get kind of wild (think of the way many young, single men live and behave). While it’s good for him to carry a load, sometimes life’s load gets imbalanced or he is not effective in carrying it. Generally, instead of recognizing this and communicating a need for help, he will struggle silently, growing more frustrated.
- Having limited patience and being irritable. Like it or not, most men equate sadness with weakness. Weakness is not something he is comfortable with, at least his own weakness. Men will often make flippant comments about the box of tissues in my office, trying to joke with me about needing it. Anger, in the form of irritability, frustration, being demanding/controlling, is safe for a man to express. Anger gives the illusion of power and mastery.
- Being overly tired or not having the energy he once had. If a man loses the “zip” in his step or enthusiasm for life, it can be a sign he is struggling. Men have an energy to go forth and conquer in life. Feeling defeated or beaten down can steal his joy.
- Sleeping too much or too little. Pretty straight forward. Look for a man to have trouble getting up on time and moving in the morning or to have difficulty sleeping. He may also nap excessively.
- Eating too much and not taking care of oneself. Our bodies and the way we care for them are often an outward manifestation of our internal condition. In other words, the man who treats his body badly, is showing how he feels about himself. It can also manifest in the opposite, for instance, if a man is trying to find some sense of control/mastery in life or he feels insecure, he may spend excessive time and energy on his physical appearance.
- Having few if any close interpersonal relationships outside of spouse. The man who doesn’t have time for meaningful relationships outside of his wife is a lonely man, even if he is not aware of it. I often confront men with their own “neediness.” In other words, whether he likes it or not, he is human and has needs. One of these needs is to be connected with other people, outside of work. If he does not meet this need, it doesn’t go away, it just deepens. It’s like hunger. Not eating over time does not mean a man overcomes his dependence on food, it just means he becomes emaciated.
- Feeling inadequate, incapable, or incompetent. These three words have been a part of my work with nearly every man I have met over the years. A man who struggles with any or all of these is not at peace with himself or the world around him. For women reading this article and trying to understand men, consider the following: You may struggle at times with appearance, acceptance, and belonging. Those are powerful issues for you as a women. These three “I’s” are the equivalent issues of significance for men. He will go to almost any lengths either to correct or numb these.