Though the stigma is lessening, men are still far more likely than women to let their depression go untreated. Blame it on Rambo, Brando, or the lure of the martini, but many guys still aren’t getting the help they need. As the traditionally stressful, dark days of winter set in, here are some signs that the guy you love might be suffering from more than a loss in fantasy football …1. Substance Use: Has he been drinking more beer than a pledging freshman? Has his usual dinner cocktail spawned into three? Often, an increase in substance use—and this includes cigarettes, recreational drugs, and caffeine—can be a desperate attempt to self-medicate or cover up unpleasant feelings that are gnawing at him.
2. Unhealthy Eating: We all have our baked chicken days and our nachos-by-the-truckload days; such is the fluctuation of normal eating. But if you see an increasing pattern of junk food bingeing, overeating, skipping meals or loss of appetite, these disruptions—and the weight changes that go with them— can be telltale signs of stress and depression.
3. Sleeping Changes: While some depressed people want nothing more than to snooze the day away, others lie awake at all hours. A change in sleeping habits, in either direction, can sometimes be a warning that a storm is brewing.
4. Irritability: Perhaps he’s taking that cocky waiter a little too personally, or he’s road-raging like a raging bull. Though many people associate anger and irritability with anything but depression, there is real evidence that edginess and grouchiness—especially among men—can signal sadness beneath.
5. Changes in Sex Life: If your usual stallion has morphed into My Little Pony, it might be a temporary dry spell. But if it seems to last a long time or the change is quite dramatic, this could mean that his mind is too preoccupied to let his body get his groove on.
6. Not Taking Care of Himself: Getting familiar with the sight of track pants on your loved one is the reality of any deepening relationship. But if showers, shaving, and bothering to find the shirt without the hot sauce stain have become a thing of the past, this could be a sign that his internal world isn’t looking so good either.
7. Preoccupied Thoughts: Maybe he can’t stop dwelling on what went down in that staff meeting, or he seems paralyzed by the showdown of tacos versus pad thai for takeout. Increased worrying, severe difficulty making decisions, and expressing excessive guilt or worthlessness are behaviors that should set off some alarm bells.
8. Loss of Pleasure: If your usual gym rat is becoming one with the couch, or your die hard news junkie has started letting the papers stack up unread, take notice. Losing interest in things that used to cause joy — without replacing them with anything new — is a classic symptom of depression.
Dr. Andrea Bonior is a licensed clinical psychologist, professor, and columnist. She received her B.A. with distinction in psychology from Yale University, with an additional major in American Studies. She completed her M.A. and Ph.D. in clinical psychology at American University with post-doctoral work at George Washington University, focusing on individual and group psychotherapy for young adults and specializing in the treatment of anxiety disorders, depression, and relationship issues. Her personal website is here.