What does depression really feel like for men?

by | Nov 27, 2020 | Movember

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.


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