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How depression is different for men

By The Health News Team | May 18, 2023
Sad man looking out a window

Depression is a mental health condition that affects people of all genders, including men. And although men are diagnosed with depression at half the rate of women, men are three to four times more likely to die by suicide than women.

Dr. Rafael Reyes, a licensed clinical psychologist with the cognitive intensive outpatient program at Sharp Mesa Vista Hospital, says men may be less likely to seek help for depression due to social and cultural factors that discourage emotional vulnerability and seeking mental health treatment. Additionally, men’s experience of depression often differs from women’s experience.

“It is more common for men to suppress emotions, such as sadness or fear, and instead express emotions such as anger and irritability,” Dr. Reyes says.

What’s more, due to traditional masculine ideals that emphasize self-reliance and emotional stoicism, men are oftentimes expected to be the provider for the family, Dr. Reyes says. But to avoid burdening their families, many men avoid communicating the pressure they may feel.

Signs of depression

Dr. Reyes says the following can be signs of depression in men:

  • Increased anger or irritability

  • Difficulty in concentrating or making decisions

  • Lack of pleasure in hobbies or activities

  • Increased sense of hopelessness

  • Decreased libido or sexual desire

  • Increased use of drugs or alcohol

  • Isolation from friends and family

There can also be physical symptoms of depression in men, including frequent headaches, tightness in the chest, chronic pain and gastrointestinal distress. “Many men tend to hide or ignore symptoms and at times may not recognize these examples as symptoms of depression,” says Dr. Reyes.

He also says men sometimes adopt unhealthy coping mechanisms to manage their depression, including isolation, which can lead to increased depression.

“Some men may use literal avoidance by spending more time at work or focusing on distractions,” he says. “Depressive symptoms can lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as addictions to video games, sex or gambling.”

The importance of seeking care

Stigma surrounding seeking help for mental health is a major barrier for many men, but Dr. Reyes says it is important to challenge these beliefs by promoting the idea that seeking help is a sign of strength. “Mental health conditions are legitimate medical conditions that require treatment, and seeking help is an important step towards recovery,” he says.

Treatment options for depression in men can include therapy, medication, lifestyle changes or a combination of these approaches. One form of therapy is cognitive behavioral therapy.

“This therapy helps identify distorted thoughts and maladaptive behavior patterns that worsen depression,” Dr. Reyes says. "It also helps a person practice more balanced thinking."

Lifestyle changes to reduce symptoms of depression include setting goals to increase social connections and physical activity. “A healthy body can lead to a healthy mind and vice versa,” Dr. Reyes says. "Set daily goals for accomplishing achievable tasks and give yourself credit for any steps you take, even if it’s not perfect or complete yet.”

Dr. Reyes also recommends talking with your primary care doctor if you or a loved one may be experiencing symptoms of depression. Together, you can determine which lifestyle changes can help and if professional care might be right for you.

If you or a loved one is experiencing a mental health crisis, call 911, or call or text the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988. Learn more about mental health programs at Sharp Mesa Vista.


Dr. Rafael Reyes


Dr. Rafael Reyes is a licensed clinical psychologist with the cognitive intensive outpatient program at Sharp Mesa Vista Hospital.

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