Depression in men: causes, symptoms and treatment

The common signs and causes of depression in men, plus the most effective treatments.

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Page medically reviewed by Dr Leon Rozewicz (MBBS, FRCPsych, MRCGP, MRCPsych), Consultant Psychiatrist and Medical Director of Priory Hospital North London in December 2021.

Lots of men struggle with depression throughout their lives and it can impact on them in many ways. Some men struggle to talk about their feelings or reach out for help, which can mean their depression gets worse over time. This may be because they believe that depression is a sign of weakness, or that they should simply ‘man up’, which can lead to some men trying to downplay how they’re feeling or cover it up.

For any men in this position, it’s crucial to understand that depression is a completely treatable mental illness, and there is no shame in accepting help.

Signs of depression in men

There are lots of symptoms of depression, which can affect anyone of any gender. Some of the most common depression symptoms to look out for include:

  • Overwhelming feelings of sadness and hopelessness
  • Feeling angry and irritable
  • Anxiety
  • Not wanting to spend time with your family and friends
  • Fatigued or feeling tired all the time

However, some symptoms of depression are more likely to be experienced by men than women, such as: physical symptoms of depression like headaches or stomach aches

  • Anger and agitation
  • Reckless behaviours such as dangerous driving
  • Substance abuse
  • A loss of interest in their family or hobbies
  • Working obsessively
  • Become controlling or abusive in relationships
  • Have difficulty sleeping

It’s also important to note that, according to the Office of National Statistics (ONS), men are around three times more likely to commit suicide when compared to women – and depression can be a key driver for this. If you’re in a state of crisis due to your mental health, or know someone who is, it’s really important to seek immediate crisis support.

Symptoms and causes of depression in men

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What causes depression in men?

Causes of depression can vary between men and women, but many of the most common are consistent across both genders. Potential causes of depression include:

Difficult life events

Going through difficult life events such as divorce, losing your job or a bereavement, can be a common trigger for depression. After suffering an event like the above, the low mood you might develop can easily become depression – especially if you don’t have the necessary support.

Family or personal history

Research has shown that genes can play a role in how likely you are to develop depression. Those who have a close relative, such as a parent or sibling, who has struggled with depression are more likely to develop it themselves. There is no single depression gene; it’s more likely that several combine together with environmental factors to give rise to depression.


Physical, sexual or emotional abuse are common triggers for depression, as is neglect or negative experiences during childhood. These experiences as a child can prevent you from developing the necessary coping strategies to deal with negative emotions, harming your mental health in adult life.

Alcohol consumption

Depression in men is often associated with excessive alcohol consumption. Excessive drinking can lead to problems in your relationships and working life which in turn can lead to depression.

It is recommended that people should drink no more than 12 units of alcohol per week and that people should have at least three alcohol free days per week. This means no more than two to three drinks, three to four times per week.

Alcohol is a chemical which is known to cause depression. As a form of self-medication, you might start drinking excessively in order to relieve symptoms of depression. However, done regularly this will only make the symptoms worse.

Excessive drinking can cause depression even in people who are not alcohol dependant, so it is recommended that anyone should drink no more than 12 units of alcohol per week and that you should have at least three alcohol free days per week.

Personality traits

If you tend to be someone who:

  • Has low self-esteem
  • Is especially anxious
  • Is a perfectionist
  • Is very self-critical

then these personality traits could mean you are more likely to develop depression.

Physical health

Chronic or life-limiting physical health problems can also lead to depression. Physical health problems can leave you feeling unhappy or sad if you’re condition has affected how you live your life. You might also feel resentful if you suffer from chronic pain, which in itself might damage your sleep and the relationships around you.

These issues can quickly develop into depression if support or relief is not forthcoming.

How to help a man with depression

If you’re worried about the mental health of someone you know, there are a number of things you can do to help them with their depression.

Learn as much as you can

Be as informed on the topic as possible, allowing you to offer genuine support for your loved one. It should also help you to begin to understand what that individual might be going through.

Open the conversation

Try to have a conversation with your loved one about his depression, when you can speak openly and honestly about how he’s feeling. Make sure that you:

  • Listen to what he has to say
  • Encourage him to confide in you how he’s feeling
  • Avoid being critical, judgemental or making assumptions
  • Let him know that depression is an illness, not a sign of weakness

Speaking to someone about their depression can be difficult, so make sure the focus is on you rather than him, so he doesn’t become defensive. For example, you could say “I’m worried about your behaviour” or “I wanted to know if there’s anything I can do to help.”

Keep track of symptoms

As well as the above, you could also encourage and help your loved one to keep track of his symptoms in terms of what they are, when they occur and whether there are any particular triggers.

By understanding these patterns and helping your loved one to spot them too, you’ll be better able to support your male relative or friend with his difficult emotions and learn to recognise when he’s going through a particularly hard time.

Encourage them

Encourage him to seek help for his depression. You could offer to call his GP on his behalf to make an appointment and then go along with him as moral support. You could also do some initial research into how depression is diagnosed and treatment options that might benefit your loved one. Ultimately, it’s important that you reassure him that there is no shame in asking for help and if he wants it, you will be there for him.

In the day-to-day, encourage him to keep doing things that make him happy. Eat well, attend social events with him and make sure he keeps up with any hobbies. These might seem small in isolation, but these mood boosters are incredibly helpful when managing depression every day.

Treatment for men with depression

Treatment options for depression don’t differ in men or women. It’s down to the patient and medical professional treating them to make a decision on the best course of treatment. Common treatments include:

  • Treatment programmes such as inpatient stays or day care
  • One-to-one and group therapy
  • Medication

If you're struggling with depression, or know someone who is, treatment options are available that can help you get your life back on track. Treatment can help you to address your symptoms and the underlying causes, creating the building blocks that help you continue to lead a fulfilling life.

Consider discussing your symptoms with your GP to get a handle on your state of mind, receive medical advice and offer an initial diagnosis. You could also seek treatment for depression here at the Priory, where we work with sufferers of depression every single day, helping them to overcome their mental health difficulties.

Our depression treatment is delivered by the very best mental health professionals in the industry. From intensive inpatient stays, weekly therapy sessions that fit in with your life and work commitments, or online therapy that allows you to recover from the comfort of your own home, Priory has the right treatment available for you. If, like many men, your depression symptoms are linked to excessive drinking, then it may be more appropriate to look at treatment for addiction to get at the root cause of your mental health problems. We also offer an innovative outpatient treatment for depression, known as repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS), which is available at Priory Wellbeing Centre Harley Street.

Whichever treatment is best for your individual circumstances, contact us and speak to a highly trained mental health professional. We'll work with you to outline the most appropriate course of treatment and help you to get back on track.

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