Clinical depression—in women or men—can cause sadness and a loss of interest in once pleasurable activities. But depression often shows up in different ways in different people.
“While the symptoms used to diagnose depression are the same regardless of gender, often the chief complaint can be different among men and women,” says Ian A. Cook, MD, the Miller Family professor of psychiatry at the University of California–Los Angeles.
Common signs of depression in men can include:
1. Sleeping Too Much Or Too Little
Sleep problems—such as insomnia, waking up very early in the morning, or excessive sleeping—are common depression symptoms.
“[Some people] sleep 12 hours a day and still feel exhausted or toss and turn and wake up every two hours,” says Dr. Cook.
Like fatigue, sleep troubles are one of the main symptoms that depressed men may discuss with their doctor, experts say.
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Health problems such as constipation or diarrhea, as well as headaches and back pain, are common in people who are depressed.
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But men often don’t realize that chronic pain and digestive disorders go hand in hand with depression, according to focus groups conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health. Norman Sussman, MD, a professor of psychiatry at the NYU Langone Medical Center, says people who are depressed do genuinely feel bad physically.
“It is a medical disorder,” says Dr. Sussman.
Psychomotor retardation can slow down a man’s ability to process information, thereby impairing concentration on work or other tasks.
“Depression fills one with negative thoughts, almost like an intrusion,” Klapow says. “You’re slowed down and constantly thinking about negative things in your world. As a result, it makes it very difficult to focus on anything.”
“I describe depression as a form of reversible brain failure, Dr. Sussman says. “When you’re depressed, it’s like your CPU isn’t working properly.”
Some men manifest depression by being hostile, angry, or aggressive, says. Dr. Sussman. “A man who realizes something is wrong may need to compensate by demonstrating that he is still strong or capable,” he says.
Anger and hostility are different than irritability. “Anger tends to be a stronger emotion,” Klapow says. “Irritability is a crankiness.”
Dr. Sussman says he’s also seen men become hostile when they have withdrawn as a result of their depression and feel under pressure by friends or family to rejoin society.