What does depression really feel like for men?

Real men cry, but depressed men often don’t. When most people think of depression, they expect someone to cry, be sad, or down in the dumps. While men certainly can and do experience depression that way, a lot of men don’t.

So what’s the number one symptom to look out for in depressed men?


Men often get really irritable when they’re depressed. Most people don’t see irritability as a sign of depression – even a lot of doctors miss it. That’s part of why men’s depression often goes undiagnosed: because people think they’re assholes instead of mentally ill.

The cycle usually goes something like this: A man becomes depressed and gets really irritable. People around him think he’s an asshole, take it personally, and start to distance themselves. He starts withdrawing and isolating himself from people too, thinking they’re the assholes, and that isolation only makes his depression worse.

Psychiatrists call this process the Asshole Death Spiral (ADS), better known by its medical name proctalgia mors spiralis. While ADS and proctalgia mors spiralis are things I just made up, the process itself is very real.

If you find you’re getting mad at your staff and vendors more, arguing with your customers, and having family troubles, it could be a sign that you’re depressed. If one of your staff is suddenly acting up and becoming insubordinate, it could be a sign that they’re depressed.

Other signs to look for include:

  • escapist behavior like working too much or not working at all

  • physical symptoms: headaches, digestive problems and pain

  • alcohol and drug use

  • controlling, violent, and abusive behavior

  • inappropriate anger

Would you have known that those were signs of depression? A lot of people, including doctors, wouldn’t.

One of the challenges for entrepreneurs is some of these behaviors are easy to justify. You’re working a lot of hours because you have to because you have a business to run. You think that if you want it done right you have to do it yourself.

The biggest problem of all is that nobody is going to confront you. Nobody will tell you that you’re the problem because you’re the boss.

OK, but what does depression actually feel like?

My depression and yours aren’t going to feel the same. There’s really no point in me telling you my list of symptoms.

What I’ve done below is made a composite sketch of a bunch of depression symptoms based on several psychiatric tests like the QIDS, Beck Depression Inventory, and a little bit of help from a depression blog called Wing of Madness to try to help you better understand what it might actually feel like in real life.

You’re tired all the time
You can’t get out of bed
That person’s typing noises are really irritating
You can see and hear everything around you but it takes extra effort to process
Making simple decisions is exceptionally difficult
Other people’s chewing noises are unusually annoying
You can’t concentrate
You encounter friction switching from one task to another Everything takes longer than it used to
You don’t bathe, brush your teeth or take care of yourself Humiliations and failures from your past spontaneously come to mind for no reason at all You’re moving and thinking in slow motion
You feel intense guilt, shame, or a sense of impending doom You eat almost automatically because you know you need calories to live You think about death and suicide
You have verbal diarrhea or your sentences become unusually short and clipped Your friends and family really irritate you You don’t enjoy anything
You feel sad or melancholy You perform mundane and repetitive tasks that have no goal for hours on end You’re gaining or losing weight
Carrying a normal conversation is difficult You feel old or out of shape You have no interests, or maybe one interest that you’re fixated on
You can’t sleep or you sleep too much Smiling feels forced or awkward You don’t socialize, return calls or emails
You’re not interested in sex You view the world in a negative light You feel like a failure

The first two tests above (QIDS and Beck) are standard tests that a psychiatrist will give you. It can’t hurt to take them to see how you score, but I strongly advise against trying to self diagnose. As someone who tried and failed, I can tell you from experience that self-diagnosis over the internet is not a good idea.

If you feel like there’s something wrong, go see a psychiatrist.

If this article was useful, interesting, or even a little entertaining, please like, share or comment, or make a donation to my Movember campaign in support of men’s mental, prostate, and testicular health.

This post is one in a short series on men’s mental health. We’ll be back to our regular posts on IT business and remote support soon.

What entrepreneurs need to know about mental health and depression

Some of you know that I’ve had my own run-in with major depression. For those of you who didn’t, now you know.

Most of us already know that depression is common: the oft quoted stat is that roughly 7% of the general population has had at least one major depressive episode. But that number balloons to a whopping 30% when we start talking about entrepreneurs. I’m willing to bet that number is even higher for IT business owners.

As if those numbers aren’t bad enough, it turns out that 62% of entrepreneurs feel depressed at least once a week, and 46% of entrepreneurs say that mental health issues interfere with their ability to work.

The crazy part is that many of these people don’t know they’re depressed. Even crazier is that your business can be going gangbusters and it can hit you like a ton of bricks out of nowhere for no good reason.

There are several reasons for that. First, there’s a huge amount of pressure on business owners not to show weakness. They’re afraid that their staff will think they’re on a sinking ship and that their customers and business relationships will disappear.

Unfortunately, there’s some truth to that. For the most part, I learned pretty quickly not to talk to anyone about what was going on. Fortunately, my business was mature enough that I was able to get it to run itself reasonably well. In cases where I had to, I’d usually tell people that I had health issues that were affecting my cognition, or in select cases where I had to, flat out tell people that I was depressed or had mental health issues.

Most of the people I told were understanding and supportive, but I could tell some people only understood to a point. Many of my customers told me that they had travelled the same road. Several offered their time, an ear, and advice. Some followed up with me to see how I was doing and still do to this day. I am very fortunate and grateful to have such a supportive community of business owners around me.

The tricky thing about telling people that you’re depressed is that everyone thinks they know what it is. Everyone’s felt a bit blue before, right?

Mental health diagnoses have a way of weaving their way into popular culture. Calling yourself “paranoid”, “anxious”, “OCD”, “depressed”, “bipolar” or even “schizo” is so common that people think they actually know what they mean. They don’t.

This is doubly true for depression, even moreso in men where it manifests in ways that you might not recognize it. I’ll describe how depression affects men in the next blog post.

Well-meaning friends, family, and the internet will urge you to get outside, go for a walk, and get some exercise if you’re feeling depressed. There’s a subreddit called /r/thanksimcured that curates bad mental health advice from around the web.

If you’re having a bad couple of days, or even mild depression, going for a walk probably isn’t bad advice. But if you feel like you might have major depression, if you’re in a funk that you haven’t been able to shake for more than a couple of weeks, then that advice is about as good as telling someone to put on a nice pair of pants so they won’t break their leg. Would you tell your schizophrenic friend to go hit the gym so they’ll stop hearing voices? It’s no different with major depression.

Mental health and depression are genuine medical conditions. You need to treat them that way. Nothing can destroy your business faster than a mental health problem. It impairs you judgment, destroys relationships with customers, staff, vendors, and partners, and makes it nearly impossible for you to get business done.

I know it feels like something you can just push yourself through — believe me I have tried — but you can’t push through depression any more than you can walk on a broken foot.

If you think you may need help, go see a doctor.

If this article was useful, interesting, or even a little entertaining, please like, share or comment, or make a donation to my Movember campaign in support of men’s mental, prostate, and testicular health.

This post is one in a short series on men’s mental health. We’ll be back to our regular posts on IT business and remote support soon.