U-M Counseling and Psychological Services

Depression is a serious but highly treatable medical condition that can strike anyone regardless of age, ethnic background, socioeconomic status, or gender. However, depression often goes unrecognized by those who have it, by their families and friends, and even by their physicians. Men, in particular, may be unlikely to acknowledge they have depressive symptoms and seek support. However, depression is common in men and is not a sign of personal weakness or a flaw in character.

While both men and women may develop the standard symptoms of depression, men often experience depression differently and may have different ways of coping. Men may be more willing to report fatigue, irritability, loss of interest in work or hobbies, and sleep disturbances rather than feelings of sadness, worthlessness, and excessive guilt, which are commonly associated with depression in women. John Greden,M.D., executive director of the University of Michigan Depression Center, states, “Regardless of gender, many with depression face a stigma barrier, but this is arguably even more of a struggle for men than women.” Instead of acknowledging their feelings, asking for support, or seeking appropriate treatment, some men may drink alcohol or use drugs when they are depressed, have more sex than usual, do significantly more academic work, become frustrated, discouraged, angry, irritable, and, sometimes, violently abusive. To cope with depression, some men may engage in reckless behavior, take risks and do dangerous things. Tragically, four times as many men as women die by suicide, even though women tend to make more suicide attempts during their lives. Many men with depression are not diagnosed appropriately and do not receive treatment that can save their lives.

Lessons from College

How To Tell if You or a Man You Care About is Depressed

Symptoms of depression:

  • Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood

  • Feelings of hopelessness, pessimism

  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness, low self-worth

  • 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

  • Trouble falling asleep, early-morning awakening, bad dreams, or oversleeping

  • Appetite and/or weight changes

  • Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts

  • Restlessness, irritability, anger

  • Persistent physical symptoms, such as headaches, digestive disorders, and chronic pain, which do not respond to routine treatment

It Takes Courage to Ask for Help:  Depression is undeniably painful for the depressed individual and can disrupt the lives of others who care or are involved. Acknowledging you are depressed can be embarrassing or seen as personal weakness, and support from family and friends plays an important role in successful treatment. Often times, the feelings and behaviors that are part of depression hinder a person’s ability to seek support, and men in particular may find it especially difficult to acknowledge depressive symptoms or ask for support. It’s important to remember, however, that depression is a real, treatable illness and nothing about which to be ashamed.

When to Get Help:  If you are feeling depressed, tell someone about your symptoms. Speak with a friend, a family member, a spiritual leader, a doctor, nurse, psychologist, social worker, or employee assistance professional. CAPS can put you in touch with a mental health professional. Asking for support takes courage, but it can make all the difference.