Feelings of sadness are a normal part of the human experience. In a person without depression, sadness comes and goes, along with the colorful rainbow of life’s other emotions.
However, for a person struggling with clinical depression, sadness feels like a giant vacuum that sucks the quality out of daily life. Men with depression are impacted differently than women. Men are less likely than women to experience depression. However, when they do, the signs of depression in men can be atypical and confusing.
How to spot signs of depression in men
The classic feelings of sadness and depressed mood may not be the hallmark signs of depression in men. Instead, men may be more subtle and vague.
In order to officially diagnose someone, healthcare providers look for a specific combination of symptoms of depression in men. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, men are more likely than women to experience anger and aggression when they are depressed.
Below are other potential signs of depression in men.
Lose interest or pleasure in activities that once brought joy
The medical term for this sign is “anhedonia,” which is defined as “the inability to experience pleasure.” This can manifest in many ways. You may find yourself suddenly uninterested in heading to the movie theater this weekend and you don’t know why. Or, you might feel guilty that your family members are excitedly planning for an upcoming trip and you don’t want to have anything to do with the conversation. If the things that once brought you pleasure are no longer provoking a thrill, it can feel very alienating, and it may be a sign of depression.
Appetite changes with weight loss or gain
If you find yourself struggling to keep your weight down, or losing weight unintentionally, it may be a sign of depression. Food may just not taste as good, or you may gravitate toward junk food when you are normally able to hit your nutrition goals with ease.
As those of us at 8fit know well, body image and metabolism are a crucial component of your overall well-being. If you see changes that negatively surprise you every time you look in the mirror, you may be experiencing depression.
Energy loss or increased fatigue
Depression can take the wind right out of your sails. If you find that you’re sleeping adequately, eating right, and hitting your exercise targets, but you’re still completely fatigued, it may be a sign of depression. If you’re feeling this way, there are other medical problems that are important to screen for, too, so make sure to check in with your healthcare provider.
Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
Are you constantly feeling guilty for things that normally wouldn’t phase you? Maybe when you make a mistake, you fixate on it and have a hard time forgiving yourself. You might feel worthless, like you don’t deserve your family and friends, or that at every turn you are somehow letting down your spouse.
Depression can manifest as extreme guilt, and you may feel like your own worst critic. It’s also very common to feel guilty about feeling depressed in the first place, or to feel like you are not entitled to feel sad, especially when you weigh your own personal circumstances against the plights of other people whom you see as struggling more. These feelings are all common signs of depression in men.
Trouble falling asleep or sleeping too much
If you find you’re having difficulty sleeping after the lights go off, or struggling to peel yourself from the sheets after your alarm clock goes off, it may be a sign that you are depressed.
Quality sleep is an absolute pillar of wellness, and sleep disruption can throw off your mood and state of mind in a hurry. If you’re struggling with a lack of proper sleep, especially if you can’t find an explanation for it, this may be a sign of a deeper mental health problem.
Increased meaningless physical activity or slowed activity
Do you find yourself pacing around the room or wringing your hands incessantly? Or, conversely, has someone at work told you that you seem tired or that you look like you are moving or speaking in “slow-motion”?
These opposite ends of the spectrum may both be signs of depression. According to the latest version of the reference used by mental health professionals to diagnose depression, these physical changes are known clinically as “psychomotor agitation or retardation,” and they can be distressing.
Difficulty concentrating, thinking, or making decisions
How is your focus? When reading emails, do you find yourself having to revisit the same paragraph over and over? Or is your pace at work less efficient than it used to be because your mental firing feels fogged or slow?
Perhaps you’re succumbing to the second or third cup of coffee each afternoon in order to try to rev up your cognition. This may be a sign of depression, especially in men.
Increased reliance on alcohol or other substances
Is your booze budget creeping upward? Men are especially vulnerable to substance abuse when they are feeling depressed. This can sneak up on you slowly. If you find that you’re opening an extra can of beer at the end of each day, or that you are sliding into other unhealthy consumption patterns, it may be helpful to pay closer attention to your nutrition.
Thinking of death or suicide
The most serious signs of depression in men are thoughts of death or thinking they want to attempt suicide, especially because men are more than three times as likely to die by suicide than women. These dark, suicidal thoughts may be passive and transient, or more active (such as plotting out an actual method to end your life).
If these thoughts apply to you or a loved one, don’t sit alone with these feelings. Seek help. There are resources available that you can access immediately from the comfort of your own home, and your healthcare provider can direct you to additional information.
How to get help
If you or a loved one are struggling with a decreased mood, unexplained anger, inability to feel joy, moodiness, or aggression, there may be an underlying depression at the root of your mental or physical symptoms.
You are not alone. Depression is the most common mental illness. Make sure to pay a visit to a healthcare professional if you’re concerned that these signs of depression apply to you. There are plenty of options for treating depression, including therapy and prescribed antidepressant medication.
Worried about cost? Here's what to do if you can't afford therapy.
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