For some men, depression can accompany the condition of erectile dysfunction (ED). It is common for men with ED to feel angry, frustrated, sad, unsure of themselves, or even less “manly.” Such feelings may lead to a lack of self-esteem and, in severe cases, to depression.

What is depression?

Depression is an illness marked by persistent sadness, feelings of hopelessness, and a pessimistic outlook.

The most common symptoms of depression include:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Loss of interest in formerly pleasurable activities
  • Fatigue
  • Changes in appetite
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Apathy

Depression not only affects the way one feels about him or herself, but also the way one thinks about other things. People who are depressed cannot simply "pull themselves together" and feel better. Depression is not a sign of personal weakness.

Without treatment, symptoms of depression may last indefinitely. Appropriate treatment, however, can help most people feel and cope with depression better.

Depression in men may not be recognized

Depression in males often goes unrecognized. This is because:

  • Men who are depressed are more likely to talk about the physical symptoms of depression, such as feeling tired, rather than about actual emotions.
  • Outward symptoms of male depression are not always understood. Men are less likely than women to show "typical" signs of depression, such as crying, sadness, or loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy.
  • Men are more likely than women to keep their feelings hidden, but they may become more irritable and aggressive.

Diagnosing depression in men with ED

The diagnosis of depression begins with a physical exam and interview by a health care professional. The patient will be asked about many issues including family history and chemical dependency. There is no single test that can diagnose depression; however, there are certain patterns that health care professionals look for in order to make a proper diagnosis. These patterns may include overall sadness, irritability, and withdrawal from everyday activities.

Treating depression in men with ED

Treatment for depression may include antidepressant medications, psychotherapy (talk therapy), or a combination of both.

  • Antidepressants: Many different drugs are used to treat depression. Note that some antidepressants can worsen ED. Health care providers can recommend antidepressants that are appropriate for men with ED.
  • Talk therapy: During therapy, a person with depression talks to a licensed and trained mental health care professional. This provider will help the person identify and work through issues related to depression. Types of talk therapy include couples therapy, individual therapy, and group therapy.

Help is available

Depression that accompanies ED is treatable. The first step in addressing your concerns about ED-related depression is to be honest with yourself, your partner, and your doctor. After depression has been brought out into the open, coping with it will be easier and less stressful.