Depression and Men: key facts
What is depression?
We all have times when we feel depressed.
Sometimes depression goes on for a long time and can become
severe. You may be unable to lift yourself out of it. This is what
doctors call a 'depressive illness' or clinical depression.
What does it feel like to be depressed?
The feeling of depression is deeper, longer and more unpleasant
that the short episodes of unhappiness that everyone experiences
occasionally. You will notice:
- persistent sadness or low mood
- not being able to enjoy things
- losing interest in life
- finding it harder to make decisions
- not coping with things that used to be easy
- feeling exhausted
- feeling restless and agitated
- loss of appetite and weight
- difficulties in getting to sleep
- loss of sex drive
- thoughts of self-harm or suicide.
Is depression different for men?
In general, men are more competitive than
women. We don’t like to admit that we need help. We are less
likely to talk about our feelings with others. This may be
why men don’t get the help they need. Some symptoms of
depression are more common in men. These include
irritability, anger, loss of control, greater risk-taking and
aggression. Men are also more likely to take their own lives.
How do men deal with depression?
We are more likely to use drugs and
alcohol than asking for help. This usually makes things
worse. Our work suffers and alcohol can lead us to
behave irresponsibly or dangerously. We may also
focus more on our work than our relationships or home
life. This can cause conflicts with partners. All of these things
make depression more likely.
What factors are linked to depression in men?
- Relationships: trouble in a
marriage or long-term relationship is the most common problem
associated with depression. Men tend not to cope with disagreements
as well as women. Arguments can make men feel uncomfortable so
they try to avoid disagreements and difficult discussions.
For example: their partner will want to talk about a problem,
but the man will try to avoid disagreements. The partner then
feels ignored and tries to talk about it more, which makes the man
feel he is being "nagged". So, he withdraws further, which makes
his partner feel even more ignored and so on. This can destroy a
- Sex: when men are depressed,
they may go off sex completely. A few depressed men report an
increase in sex drive and intercourse, possibly as a way of
trying to feel better. Some antidepressant drugs reduce
sex-drive in men and women. However, the good news is that, as
the depression improves, so will sexual desire.
- Impotence: difficulty in
getting an erection can cause depression.
- Unemployment and retirement:
leaving work, for any reason, can be stressful. One in seven men
who become unemployed will get depressed within six months. And
then depression can make it harder to get another job.
- Suicide: men are three
times more likely than women to kill themselves. You are more
likely to have these feelings if you are on your own or a heavy
What help is available?
- Self-help: there are now a number of self-help
books and computer programmes based on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) for
- Talking treatments: there are several
different types of talking treatments. Counselling enables you to
talk about your feelings to a professional. Your GP may have a
counsellor at the surgery who you can talk to.
- Cognitive Behavioural
Therapy helps people overcome the negative thoughts
that can sometimes be the cause of depression.
- Medication: antidepressants can help
if your depression is severe or goes on for a long time. They can
help you feel less anxious and cope better, so that you can start
to enjoy life and deal with problems effectively again.
- As well as tablets, there is an alternative remedy called St John's
Wort available from chemist. This can help in mild to
moderate depression. If you are taking other medication, it is
important to tell your GP before taking St John's Wort.
- If you’ve had a major upset in your life, try
to tell someone how you feel about it.
- Keep active. This will help to keep
you fit and you will sleep better.
- Eat a balanced diet, with lots of fruit and
- Avoid alcohol and drugs. They will make you
more depressed in the long run.
- Try relaxation methods. For example
yoga, massage or aromatherapy.
- Do something you enjoy at least once a
- If you are a perfectionist, you may be
driving yourself too hard. Try setting yourself more realistic
- Read about depression. Books and websites can
give you ideas on how to cope.
Think about depression differently
It can help to see depression as a result of
chemical changes in the brain and/or as the cost of living in
stressful times. It can affect the strongest person, but it
can be treated. Both talking and medication can be important
ways to help you get better.
The place to start is your GP who can go over
your treatment options, and discuss any worries you have about
confidentiality. You may be concerned that being depressed could
damage your chances in work. Remember, in the UK, it is illegal for
an employer to fire you - or not hire you - just because you have
Depression may be due to physical illness, so
you should get a physical check-up from your GP.
How can I help someone who is depressed?
- Listen to them, but try not to judge them.
- Don't offer advice unless they ask for it, but if you see the
problem that is behind the depression, you could work with the
person to find a solution.
- Spending time with them, listening over and over to their
problems, and encouraging them to keep going with activities in
their routine, is all helpful.
If they are getting worse, encourage them to
visit their GP and to accept treatment.
For more in-depth information see our main
leaflet: Depression and
This leaflet reflects the most up-to-date evidence at the time
Produced by the RCPsych Public Education Editorial Board.
Series Editor: Dr Philip Timms
Reviewed by Sally Dean
© June 2015. Due for review June 2018 Royal
College of Psychiatrists.
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