Depression in Men: Signs & Causes

Depression

A diagnostic label used to categorise a common set of symptoms shared by people experiencing persistent and distressing periods of low mood.

It is estimated to effect one-in-four people at some point in their lives and is classified as a common mental health problem such as depression. This is not due to genetics and depression can effect any one of us. Symptoms are usually categorised into mild, moderate and severe.

​Feelings of sadness and low mood are often be linked to loss. Losses can come in many forms such as the loss of a job, an important relationship, a sense of security, the potential for further loss, or a loss of a person’s normal sense of themselves. Sometimes people can experience a combination of different losses in a short space of time. For other people there may be losses that have a longer history and have built up over many years. In this sense depression is not an illness but rather a predictable and understandable reaction to adverse experience.

Common symptoms of depression include feelings of sadness, hopelessness, worthlessness, guilt, shame and anger. People usually lose interest in things they used to enjoy, find themselves withdrawing and isolating from relationships and their normal activities and routine. There may be disturbances in sleep, a loss of appetite, interest and motivation.

For men there may be gender specific things that could indicate they are struggling. These would include feelings of anger and irritability, stress, excessive drinking and drug use, addictions and other self-destructive behaviours.

People who are low in mood will inevitably spend time thinking about the things they have lost over and over again. Psychologists would call this pattern of thinking rumination which is activated by feelings of sadness and loss. It is a normal human response to loss. Unfortunately, ruminating leads to problems in concentration and attention which can have an impact on work or family life. It also impairs our ability to think clearly, make decisions and resolve problems.

Signs of Depression in Men

Common signs of depression in men include

Loss of interest in friends and activities which used to be enjoyable

Feelings of: helplessness, hopelessness, worthlessness, guilt

Quickly irritated, short-tempered, agitated, restless or aggressive

Increased alcohol consumption, taking life-threatening risks or self-medicating

Sleep disturbances because the mind is overly active

Loss of appetite or over-eating

Difficulty concentrating

Less productive

Negative thoughts are taking over

Loss of touch with normal activities and routine

Loss of interest in sex

People who are low in mood will inevitably spend time thinking about the things they have lost over and over again, this is called rumination. It is a normal human response to loss, which unfortunately, leads to problems in concentration and attention which can have an impact on work or family life. It also impairs our ability to think clearly, make decisions and resolve problems. This is why thinking a lot is not very helpful when you’re feeling depressed.

Causes of Depression in Men

One of the biggest causes for depression in men is loss.

Losses can come in many forms such as the loss of a job, an important relationship, a sense of security, a home or retirement. Depression is also linked to a perceived loss of a person’s normal sense of themselves, their motivation, attention, interest, desire, purpose of personality.. Sometimes people can experience a combination of different losses in a short space of time. For other people there may be losses that have a longer history and have built up over many years.

Other causes for depression are:

  • Childhood abuse; emotional, physical or sexual abuse

  • Personal conflict or disputes with friends or family members

  • Certain medications can increase your risk of depression such as high blood pressure medicines

  • A history of depression in the family (genetics are not a big factor here)

  • Social and/or emotional isolation

  • Serious illnesses and/or chronic pain

  • Life transitions

Interestingly major positive events such as graduating, starting a new job, getting married, or becoming a father can also cause depression in men. These events can take you out of your comfort zone and make you feel really insecure. You might feel overwhelmed and fearful, and not prepared enough for such big changes. Or the reality of a long anticipated event doesn’t live up to your high expectations, which could make you feel depressed.

Help for Men with Depression

Depression is treatable.

The National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) recommends the use of psychological therapy as the first line of intervention. Medication may be useful for more severe cases but should be used alongside psychological therapy. CBT has a good evidence base but there are other effective approaches.

Self-help and self-learning is important and effective in resolving depression for mild to moderate cases. You can find a list of self-help books in our resources section.

Try to reach out to one of your friends and family members. This is often the first place people look to for help and it can be an incredibly helpful resource too many people.

Helplines including CALM and the Samaritans can be helpful if you need someone to speak to. CALM is a charity designed around the needs of men and is a great resource.

If you believe you need help from a professional you could approach you GP or call you local Increasing Access to Psychological Therapy service (IAPT).

If you are in a crisis with thoughts, intentions or plans to let someone know and consider contact your local NHS Crisis Resolution Home Treatment Team. If you in immediate danger get to a place of safety, A+E is a pathway into NHS crisis services.

Depression in Men Statistics

01.
Mental Health

Each year, 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem.

In the UK, 6% of fathers and 10% of mothers have mental health problems.

02.
Depression

On average, 1 in 6 people (1 in 8 men and 1 in 5 women) will experience depression at some stage of their lives. Depression can affect anyone. It’s not in your genes.

Currently the average age of onset for depression is 14, compared to 45 in the 1960s.

There was a 116% increase in the number of young people who talked about suicide during Childline (UK) counselling sessions in 2013/14, compared to 2010/11.

According to a 2009 survey, 9.7% of people in Britain meet the criteria for diagnosis of mixed anxiety and depression.

About 50% of the people with a mental health condition, have Mixed Anxiety Depression Disorder, which means they have many symptoms of both depression and anxiety, but don’t quite qualify for full-blown anxiety or depression. For about 25% of people with this condition it lasts longer than a year, and for about 10% of them will go on to develop full-blown depression or anxiety.

Men are less likely than women to seek treatment for their condition. Only 1 in 4 men who experience anxiety or depression get treatment for it.

03.
Major Depression

The APMS (2007) estimates that between 4% and 10% of people in England are likely to experience major depression in their lifetime.

Almost half of all men who’ve been very depressed didn’t talk to anybody about it compared to one third of women.

Approximately 58% of patients with major depression also have an anxiety disorder.

04.
Suicide

Suicide is the biggest killer of men under 35;

Men make up 76% of all suicides.

1 in 4 British men have thought of taking their own lives.

41% of men who consider committing suicide have never spoken to anyone about their feelings, including medical professionals, family or friends.

05.
Other

1 in 8 men have no close friends

Men report significantly lower life satisfaction than women.