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Symptoms of Depression in Men

While both women and men can develop the standard symptoms of depression, they often experience depression differently and may have different ways of coping with it. For example, men may be more willing to acknowledge:
 
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Loss of interest in work or hobbies
  • Sleep disturbances.
     
Other the other hand, men with depression may be less likely to acknowledge:
 
  • Feelings of sadness
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Excessive guilt.
     
Many males are also unaware that "physical" symptoms -- including headaches, chronic pain, and digestive disorders like constipation and diarrhea -- can be associated with depression.
 
Men are also more likely than women to report alcohol and drug abuse or dependence in their lifetime; however, there is debate among researchers as to whether substance use is a "depression symptom" in men or a co-occurring condition that more commonly develops in men. Nevertheless, substance use can mask depression, making it harder to recognize depression as a separate illness that needs treatment.
 

Depression in Older Men

Men must cope with several kinds of stress as they age. If they have been the primary wage earners for their families and have identified heavily with their jobs, they may feel stress upon retirement -- stemming from the loss of an important role, as well as loss of self-esteem -- that can lead to depression. Similarly, the loss of friends and family and the onset of other health problems can trigger symptoms.
 
Depression is not a normal part of aging. It is an illness that can be effectively treated, thereby decreasing unnecessary suffering, improving the chances of recovery from other illnesses, and prolonging productive life.
 
However, healthcare providers may miss symptoms of depression in older men. Older men may be reluctant to discuss feelings of sadness, grief, or loss of interest in pleasurable activities. They may complain primarily of physical symptoms. It may be difficult to discern co-occurring depression in men who also have other illnesses -- such as heart disease, stroke, or cancer -- which may cause depression or may be treated with medications that have side effects that cause depression.
 
If depression is diagnosed, treatment with appropriate medication and/or brief psychotherapy can help older adults manage both diseases -- which, in turn, will enhance survival and quality of life.
 
(Click Depression in the Elderly for more information.)
 
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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