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Depression in men

11-minute read

If you or someone close to you is experiencing an emergency, or is at risk of immediate harm, call triple zero (000). To talk to someone now, call Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636 or Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Key facts

  • Depression is a serious mental health condition that affects how you feel, think and handle daily activities.
  • It can make you feel sad, irritable or empty and lose pleasure or interest in things you usually enjoy.
  • Depression affects 1 in 8 men at some point in their lives.
  • Men are more likely to be aware of the physical aspects of depression, such as feeling tired or losing weight, rather than changes in how they feel.
  • If you have signs of depression that last for more than 2 weeks, or you are concerned that you may be depressed, seek help — your GP is a good place to start.

What is depression in men?

Depression is a serious mental health condition that affects how you feel, think, and handle daily activities. It can make you feel sad, irritable or empty and lose pleasure or interest in things you usually enjoy. While it is normal to feel down sometimes, if you feel this way for 2 weeks or more you may be experiencing depression.

Social norms that define masculinity, like not talking about your feelings or not getting upset, can sometimes make it hard for men to acknowledge that they may be experiencing depression.

This page is about depression in men; however, many aspects of depression aren’t confined to a particular gender. Go here for more general information about depression.

How common is depression in men?

Depression affects 1 in 8 men at some point in their lives. Depression can put someone at risk of suicide, while sadly, 7 men commit suicide every day in Australia.

What causes depression in men?

Depression can be caused by a wide range of factors, and every person has a unique set of circumstances.

In some people, challenging life events or issues such as a family member dying, facing unemployment, past or continuing abuse, or stress at work may cause depression.

Sometimes a recent event, such as a divorce or losing your job, can trigger depression if you are already at risk.

You are more likely to develop depression if:

  • you have a close family member with depression
  • you have a serious medical condition
  • you have a personality that is prone to depression, such as if you worry a lot or you are a perfectionist
  • you take drugs or drink too much alcohol

Loneliness can also increase your risk of developing depression. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused disruption and social isolation for many people who may have been apart from friends and family for a long time. This can lead to an increased risk of depression.

Sometimes, people can develop depression for no obvious reason, but just because there is no clear cause it doesn’t mean that you are not experiencing depression.

What are the signs of depression in men?

The signs of depression in men involve changes in the way they think, feel or behave. There are also physical signs of depression.

For example, you may feel:

  • irritable, angry or frustrated
  • sad or empty
  • disappointed
  • indecisive or overwhelmed
  • helpless or hopeless
  • guilty

You may think negative thoughts, such as:

  • you are not important or valuable (low self-esteem)
  • people would be better off without you
  • life is not worth living
  • your life is not enjoyable

You may start behaving differently — for example, by:

  • not going out with friends or family
  • not managing as well as you normally do at work or school
  • escaping into work or sports activities
  • not doing activities you normally look forward to
  • relying on drugs or alcohol to make it through the day
  • not being able to concentrate
  • behaving recklessly

You may also notice physical signs, such as:

Almost everyone experiences some of these signs occasionally. If your symptoms appear often or won’t go away, you may be experiencing depression.

While anyone with depression can experience any of these symptoms, men and women tend to experience and report them differently. Men are more likely to talk about the physical symptoms of depression, such as feeling tired or losing weight, rather than saying they feel low.

Some people who experience depression think their life is not worth living or that other people would be better off without them. People experiencing depression are more likely to take their own lives by suicide, while sadly, 7 men end their own lives every day in Australia.

Suicide and crisis support

If you or someone close to you is experiencing an emergency, or at risk of immediate harm, call triple zero (000). To talk to someone now, call the Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467 or Lifeline on 13 11 14.

CHECK YOUR SYMPTOMS — Use the Symptom Checker and find out if you need to seek medical help.

When should I seek help?

If you have symptoms of depression for 2 weeks or more, or you are concerned that you may be depressed, you should speak to your doctor.

Your doctor can assess you and, if necessary, work with you to build a mental health treatment plan. This is a plan that maps out your treatment goals and includes the services and resources available to you. If your doctor thinks that another health professional, such as a psychologist or psychiatrist, should be involved, they will be able to refer you to someone who can help.

If you are experiencing occasional signs of depression, or just feeling low, you can reach out to a friend or family member to chat or even just go out together to do something you enjoy.

It is important to carry on doing the things that normally make you happy even if you don’t feel interested in them right now. Eventually, with the right support, you will find the enjoyment again and start feeling better.

FIND A HEALTH SERVICE — The Service Finder can help you find doctors, pharmacies, hospitals and other health services.

How can I help a man with depression?

If you think that a male friend or family member may be experiencing depression, you can offer them help and support.

Some men find it particularly difficult to share their emotions, but you can help them by starting a conversation about how they are doing, and showing them that you want to support them.

Sometimes men with depression might feel that they don’t want to seek help because it is ‘not manly’. In such a situation, the best thing you can do is to remind them that depression is a serious but common mental health condition that probably won’t get better by itself.

If they had a broken leg or a bad cut, they wouldn’t expect that to heal without their doctor’s help, and it’s the same with depression.

How is depression in men treated?

If you are experiencing depression, your doctor can help you build a mental health treatment plan. Your plan may include different types of treatments depending on your symptoms and how severe they are.

The main ways to treat depression are through medication, psychological treatments, brain stimulation therapies, and self-help or alternative (complementary) therapies.

Medication

Antidepressant and mood stabilising medications influence chemical processes in the brain that control your mood. They normally take 4 to 6 weeks to be effective.

Psychological treatments

There is a wide range of psychological treatments for depression, such as:

If you are experiencing depression, your doctor may recommend one of these types of therapy by itself or together with other types of treatments.

Brain stimulation therapies

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) is a non-invasive procedure that uses an electromagnetic coil placed on the scalp to stimulate the nerve cells in your brain that control mood.

Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) involves a brief electrical stimulation of the brain while the person is under anaesthetic. It is used to treat specific types of depression, including severe depression that has not responded to medication.

Self-help and alternative therapies

A wide range of self-help techniques and alternative or complementary therapies can be used to treat depression either by themselves or together with other types of therapies.

Not all types of depression can be treated using these methods alone, so it is important that you work with your doctor to build a personal mental health treatment plan that will work for you. Self-help and alternative therapies include:

ASK YOUR DOCTOR — Preparing for an appointment? Use the Question Builder for general tips on what to ask your GP or specialist.

Resources and support

  • Join the MoodGYM program — a free online cognitive behaviour therapy program.
  • Take the Mind Quiz on Beyond Blue’s website to find out what to do next if you are feeling worried about depression.
  • Share your experiences in Beyond Blue’s online forum for adults with depression.
  • Find out more on Beyond Blue’s website about how depression affects Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people.
  • If you are experiencing depression related to your sexuality or gender identity (LGBTIQA+), Qlife provides a counselling and referral service for LGBTIQA+ people.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: September 2021


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