Why Are The Signs Of Depression In Men Different?

Updated March 21, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Disclaimer: While anyone may experience the symptoms mentioned in this article, please note as part of an initiative responding to the APA Guidelines for Psychological Practice With Boys and Men (2018), this article will focus on how mental health impacts men and boys. We use "men" to refer to people who identify as men or male-aligned. 

Men and boys may face mental health stigmas that can cause accessing care to feel challenging or shameful. Depression is a common mental health condition that anyone of any gender can experience. Signs of depression, however, may vary between those of different genders. For example, men may be more likely to experience anger and aggression rather than sadness, and they may not realize that this can be a symptom of depression.

There are five significant depression symptoms commonly experienced by men, including overindulging in escapism, medical symptoms, substance use disorder, irritability, and risky behaviors. Although anyone may experience these symptoms, they may be more common in men.

Wondering If You Might Be Struggling With Depression?

How Does Depression In Men Differ 

Depression may involve signs and symptoms alongside coping mechanisms and depression-influenced behaviors. Men can show different signs, symptoms, and coping mechanisms than other genders. Depression in men may go undiagnosed because the depression isn't recognized as depression, signs and symptoms are downplayed, there's a reluctance to talk about the symptoms, or they resist reaching out for support. 

Men and boys might experience the following common depression symptoms: 

  • Extreme fatigue
  • Difficulty sleeping 
  • Changes in eating habits 
  • Difficulty enjoying previously enjoyed activities 
  • Feelings of sadness, emptiness, or hopelessness

Men also may have symptoms that might not be initially recognized as depression by medical providers or others in their life, including: 

Depression might cause men to struggle without support due to stereotypes about what "masculinity" means for a man. These stereotypes might condition men to limit their expression of emotions linked to depression or any emotion perceived as "sensitive." Since mentend to be less likely to reach out for support, it could be a reason why women are often more frequently diagnosed with the condition.

Unpacking Common Depression Symptoms In Men

There are many possible depression symptoms, some of which are found in all genders. However, the following symptoms are often reported by men diagnosed with the condition. 


Overindulging in escapist behaviors could signal a desire to escape from reality or the symptoms of depression. These behaviors might vary but could involve an unhealthy or unsustainable amount of time and money. Some escapist behaviors common among depressed men may include the following:

  • Watching or paying for pornography

  • Video games 

  • Working out 

  • Gambling and sports betting

  • Watching sports 

  • Binge-watching shows or films

  • Using substances 

  • Sex 

If you find yourself utilizing the above coping mechanisms or other distracting strategies mechanisms to escape from any distressing symptoms or emotions, you might be experiencing escapism related to depression. 

Medical Problems

Severe stress can indicate depression and might have an impact on physical health. Men struggling with stress and depression might experience headaches, gastrointestinal issues, and other ailments. Other physical manifestations of depression in men may include sudden or significant weight loss or gain, fatigue, and a racing heartbeat.

Substance Use Disorder

Men may turn to alcohol or substances to cope with their depressive symptoms. Although doctors may be less likely to view this as a sign of depression in men, it is commonly reported by men experiencing symptoms of the condition. Men may experience depression due to substance use, as well. However, they are often connected. Substance use can also be a method of escapism. 

If you are struggling with substance use, contact the SAMHSA National Helpline at (800) 662-4357 to receive support and resources.


While men with depression may open up and discuss their depressive symptoms, they might be more likely to express these symptoms through anger or feelings of irritability. Testosterone occurs in higher levels in those assigned males at birth or those taking testosterone as hormone treatment. This hormone has been associated with higher rates of aggression, irritability, and hostility, which may cause irritability for cisgender men and trans-masculine individuals taking hormones. 

Medical professionals may not see irritability as a sign of depression in men as it may be linked to traditional "masculine" stereotypes. Men may be able to refute this by letting their medical provider know they're concerned about how they feel and would like to be evaluated for depression. 

Risky Behaviors

Along with substance use disorder, men who are experiencing depression may be more likely to engage in risky behaviors, including dangerous driving, binge drinking, sex, and gambling, as well as other risky financial behaviors. People may use these behaviors as a shield to mask or distract from their depression. These symptoms might be mistaken for another condition, or a stereotype about how men should act.   

Reducing the "male experience" to risky behaviors may also feel invalidating for men. If doctors, friends, family, and others perpetuate the idea that men must partake in frequent sex, drink alcohol socially, or spend lots of money, men may grow up believing that these behaviors are normal and not part of an underlying concern. They might also sense that they are not being taken seriously if they try to reach out for support or talk to peers.

Wondering If You Might Be Struggling With Depression?

Combatting Depression

There are several ways to fight depression, including medication, discussing your concerns with a professional, and lifestyle changes. Although it can feel scary, meeting with a professional can be a brave first step to finding support. 

Often, men discuss an urge to be strong or stoic for their partners, families, or friends and feel unable to voice their needs because doing so would take up space. Setting up a space for yourself may allow you to focus more actively on others in your life. If you worry about visiting an in-person counselor, you can also try online therapy, which allows a more discreet treatment. You can choose between video, phone, or live chat sessions and can choose the name or nickname you use on the site. If you're uncomfortable spending much money on treatment, online therapy may be much more affordable than traditional counseling. Studies show that online therapy may be more effective for men than for other genders, as it often allows for the removal of gender-based stereotypes in treatment. 

If you're interested in trying this treatment modality, consider signing up for an online platform like BetterHelp, which offers a growing database of therapists. When you sign up, you can indicate if you feel most comfortable speaking to a male therapist. 


Stereotypes, hormones, and societal pressures may cause men to struggle to seek treatment or may cause symptoms of depression to go unnoticed. If you believe you may be experiencing symptoms of this mental health condition, consider reaching out to a counselor for further compassionate insight and support. 

“Utterly phenomenal, without this man, I would be in a significantly worse place; I was able to face my fears, get the girl, all while overcoming depression and anxiety issues. Not a cure-all pill, required a lot of work, but his capabilities, friendliness, and approachability can’t be beaten!”

“Jonathan is outstanding. When I first started with BH, I was honestly a little skeptical at how effecting counseling through my iPhone would be, especially at such a great value. That skepticism immediately vanished when I first connected with Jonathan; the man is World Class! He has offered me guidance and coaching that has expanded into multiple aspects of my life, enabling me to grow as a person tremendously. I can not say enough great things about BH and Jonathan Meza!!”

You Don’t Have To Face Depression Alone. Our Experienced Counselors Can Help.

The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.
You don't have to face depression aloneGet Started