Depression, once labeled a woman's disease, is being recognized more frequently in men. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, more than 6 million American men have depression each year.

Male depression may include symptoms not normally thought of as the classic depression symptoms. As a result, depression can be difficult to recognize in men. Doctors may then be less likely to suspect it as the cause of a man's complaints. Men may also not be willing to admit that they are feeling depressed. The condition may be seen as a bad mark for masculinity in men who want to preserve the image of toughness and endurance.

Symptoms Associated With Male Depression

  • Using alcohol or drugs to self medicate
  • Working excessively long hours
  • Watching excessive amounts of television
  • Becoming irritable or angry
  • Becoming violent to himself or others
  • Creating conflict
  • Acting overtly or covertly hostile
  • Risk taking behaviors
  • Having extramarital affairs

Classic Symptoms of Depression

In addition to male associated symptoms, men may also experience classic symptoms:

  • Persistent sad, anxious, or "empty" mood
  • Feelings of hopelessness, pessimism
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities that were once enjoyed, including sex
  • Decreased energy, fatigue, being "slowed down"
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions
  • Insomnia, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
  • Appetite and/or weight loss, or overeating and weight gain
  • Restlessness, irritability
  • Persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, such as headaches, digestive disorders, and chronic pain
  • Thoughts of death or suicide; suicide attempts

Suicide Prevention

Untreated depression has been linked to suicide. Men die by suicide almost four times more than women, even though women make more suicide attempts. This could relate to the fact that women seek help more than men do. Also, men have more access to firearms. Guns are used more than other method to commit suicide (accounting for 58% of all gun deaths in the US).

Thoughts of suicide are an emergency. Someone who is planning on committing suicide may:

  • Refer to himself as a bad or rotten person
  • Exhibit hopelessness in statements such as “I won’t be a problem much longer,” “You’ll never see me again,” or “There’s no use”
  • Give or throw away important belongings
  • Say “I’m going to kill myself” or “I’m going to commit suicide” (These threats should always be taken seriously, even if you think the person is just being manipulative.)
  • Have hallucinations or strange thoughts

If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, call 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433) or 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).

The Importance of Getting Help

Two-thirds of people who suffer from depression do not seek help. It is crucial, however, that depression be diagnosed and treated. Of those who seek treatment, 80% experience significant improvement and lead productive lives.