Covert Depression in Men: When the Symptoms Aren’t So Obvious

“Depression? Get out of here! I am NOT depressed. I’m not sad. I get out of bed and go to work every day. I still have things that I enjoy. I know what depression looks like and I don’t have that.”

Two Types of Depression in Men

I cannot tell you how many times, during my career of working with men on mental health issues, I have heard a version of this speech. And guess what…it’s correct, at least in part. Traditional depression does often times present with low motivation, sadness, loss of enjoyment, lethargy, and exhaustion. But, not all the time.


Mental health expert Terrance Real, says that in men, there are two types of depression. Overt depression fits the traditional description of depression that most are familiar with. However, the other type is called covert depression. Real says that the symptoms of overt depression are like the defenses against depression that occur in the body.


What Covert Depression Looks Like:

  • Self Medication- The use of alcohol or drugs with the intent of helping you cope at the end of a long day or to help you sleep. This differs from what experts call normal use because in this case, the substance is used with the intention of solving a “problem.”

  • Violence- This is not only cases of domestic violence or a fistfight. Outbursts of rage, intense frustration, punching a wall, throwing your phone, and raising your voice are all types of violent behavior. This is especially true if it doesn’t take much to set you off.

  • Sex- Whether it is with your spouse of multiple partners, sex can be a form of self-medication. Many men use their sexual relationship as a coping mechanism or a stress response rather than an exercise in intimacy and emotional connection.

  • Acting Out- Maybe you yell at waiters or buy things knowing you can afford it and your wife is going to complain. Perhaps you come home late without calling, or struggle to keep promises. Any behavior that you know will have a negative consequence, yet you still rationalize it could be a form of acting out.

These are all defenses against depression. Now, it doesn’t mean if you do one of these things or even all of them, that you are depressed. But men who are depressed (in the non-traditional sense) often exhibit these behaviors.


There is a Way Out

Real says that the way out of covert depression is through overt depression. When you are able to acknowledge the defenses against your depressive symptoms and deal with depression head on, it is much more likely that you can successfully treat the depression. The trouble with this is that often times, men do not want to listen to their covert symptoms (defenses) and consider that they might be the result of something deeper.


This is where working with a counselor can really help. At Mind Works Counseling Services in Lubbock, TX, we specialize in working with men struggling with depression. We understand that depression in men does not always look like traditional depression and we use techniques that have been shown to be effective with male clients. Here, we do not employ a one-size-fits-all ideology. We understand that your masculinity is part of who you are and we strive to help you maintain your sense of self while you work on what is slowing you down and making you feel stuck.


Learn more about the Depression Therapy we offer for me.


Contact us to schedule and appointment or to let us answer any questions you may have.


Click here to learn more about what Terrance Real has to say about male depression.

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