Man having beers with friends looks off to side

"Often overlooked, drinking, getting mad, and getting into fights may be indicators that a man is depressed."

Many men feel depressed at some time in their lives. Sometimes, depression looks like the ‘textbook’ form: feeling sad, decreased interest or pleasure, and changes in sleep and appetite. Sometimes, however, it takes different forms in men. 

For guys, these symptoms can be easy to miss, because they overlap with societal expectations of how guys behave. Drinking, getting mad, and getting into fights are how the ‘manly man’ is ‘supposed’ to cope. However, recent research has found that these kinds of symptoms and behaviours can indicate that a man may be depressed.[1] If you or a guy you know are experiencing these symptoms, it might be worth reaching out and consulting a mental health professional or family doctor.

Here are some common ways depression manifests in men that are often overlooked.


While sadness and loss of interest are the most widely recognisable symptoms of depression, it’s not uncommon for guys to experience increased irritability and anger when they are experiencing problems with their mood, like depression. Unlike sadness, anger has traditionally been seen as a more acceptable negative emotion for guys to express. 

If you or a guy you know are getting set off by things that wouldn’t normally warrant getting angry, depression might be the underlying cause. This can take many forms, including verbally or physically lashing out at others, having a short temper, or even getting mad at ourselves. 

If you find yourself struggling with anger, you may want to speak to a professional or a loved one about it. Short of doing so, however, there are a few things we can do to manage our anger. The first step is to understand our anger. When we notice that we’re starting to get mad, we can step back and use a ‘circuit breaker’,  something to disengage from our anger before it increases, such as slowing down our breathing. 


People with depression can feel like life isn’t worth living and that they’d be better off dead. For guys, this can manifest as a diminished regard for the consequences of their actions. A guy who is struggling with depression might drive dangerously or aggressively. Risk-taking can also take other forms, such as gambling more than you can afford to lose.  

Acting impulsively might put you (or others) in harm’s way. Activities like exercise or meditation can help slow down impulsive thoughts. Again, talking to a professional might be helpful to gain a greater sense of control over risk-taking behaviours.


Many guys drink to unwind, de-stress, or have fun with friends. When we’re feeling depressed, it can be tempting to use alcohol to numb negative feelings, or to fall asleep. Unfortunately, drinking is not only unhelpful for depression, it can actually make things worse, especially when done often, in excess, and/or alone. If you notice yourself or a friend drinking more than usual, it’s worth asking about it. 

If you decide you’d like to limit your drinking, or would like to help a friend cut down, it’s important to have the right support in place, including having a plan to reduce drinking. This might consist of deciding how much you want to drink (e.g., no more than a couple of drinks in a single setting), reducing exposure to alcohol-fuelled environments, or finding different ways to cope when you’re struggling emotionally. 

Consulting a doctor can also help, especially if you’ve been drinking a lot or taking medications that affect how your body processes alcohol.


Like alcohol, other drugs seemingly offer a simple way to alter your mood. In the moment, different substances can make you feel more confident, elated, or calm. Substance use doesn’t necessarily look like the typical picture of depression, especially when the drug in question has effects like euphoria or high energy. A guy who takes illicit drugs could be mistaken for someone who simply likes to party hard. However, substance use is ultimately counterproductive for dealing with depression. 

Deciding to cut down or cease substance use (or helping a friend do so) is easier with support and clear goals. Medical advice can be crucial for addictive substances in order to limit the health impacts of withdrawal, while replacing substance use with alternative means of coping is important for making a lasting change.


“Boys don’t cry”, right? Guys are expected to be in charge and self-reliant, so if we’re feeling sad or down, it can make us feel like less of a man. These expectations can make it tempting to respond to depression by pushing it down, bottling it up, or trying to go it alone. Doing so doesn’t make these feelings go away, however. It just makes it harder to identify and address the root cause. If you find yourself struggling to stop yourself feeling down, it’s time to reach out for help.

Feeling emotions like sadness isn’t a sign of weakness. In fact, acknowledging these emotions is the first step in recovery from depression. Many men find it helpful to explore their emotions with a therapist. Other practices like acceptance-based approaches can be really helpful in managing painful emotions.. 


Headaches, heartburn, stomach-aches, and other pains can mean a lot of things. They could mean we’re dehydrated, or we ate too much, or we aggravated an old injury. If we’re getting aches and pains without any apparent cause, however, it could be a sign of depression. This is because the mind and body are closely connected, so when we’re feeling depressed, this feeling can manifest in our body too. 

Because aches and pains can mean many different things, it’s important to consult a doctor to find the cause. If you and your doctor are unable to determine a physical cause, however, it’s worth checking in with your mental state. Though we often conceptualize our health as being divided up into mental and physical, our health is really all one system, so when we look after our mental health, we’re also looking after our physical health.


In isolation, any one of these symptoms is not necessarily indicative of depression. However, if you or a guy you know has been experiencing these symptoms for a while (more than two weeks), and they’re having a detrimental impact on everyday work, social or family life, then you might want to reach out to a doctor or mental health professional. Doing so is the first step to getting better. 

It can be hard to delve into the root causes of depression on our own, this is where therapy can really come in handy by providing an outside and expert perspective. Learn more with Our Guide to Therapy for Men.

Guest Authors:

Associate Professor Simon Rice is a Principal Research Fellow and Clinical Psychologist with a longstanding interest in men’s mental health, based at Orygen in Melbourne, Australia.

Kieran O’Gorman is a researcher interested in young men’s mental health and suicide prevention. He is part of the Gender and Social Psychiatry Team at Orygen in Melbourne, Australia.


  1. Oliffe, J. L., Rossnagel, E., Seidler, Z. E., Kealy, D., Ogrodniczuk, J. S., & Rice, S. M. (2019). Men’s depression and suicide. Current Psychiatry Reports 21(10), 103.

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