Men who are unhappy in life but don’t know why usually display these 7 subtle behaviors

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Ever felt down without really knowing why? 

We all have, of course. Sometimes, we just wake up on the wrong side of the bed.

But left unchecked, this can lead to more severe problems like depression. Therefore, spotting the signs of it in those we love is very important.  

However, in men, it can be especially tricky. Often, men don’t share their feelings openly, and their struggles might not be obvious. 

Even serious struggles can be hard to recognize. As WebMD points out, “A depressed man, their loved ones, and even their doctor may not recognize depression. “

With this in mind, today we dive into seven easy-to-overlook behaviors that suggest a man might be unhappy, even if he’s not aware of it himself. 

Let’s get to it. 

1) An obsession with fitness

Yes, regular exercise has so many health benefits, enhancing both our physical and mental states. I have written about how it can make us happier and more productive. 

And all this still stands; exercise is hugely beneficial. 

But, delve a little deeper, and the narrative takes an unexpected turn. When it becomes obsessive, it may indicate a problem. 

A study from 2018 of over 2,000 American men revealed that an obsession with achieving the perfect physique, often characterized by rigorous gym routines and an overemphasis on muscle mass, could actually be a sign of struggle.

Researchers found men who are obsessed with this are more likely to struggle with depression and drinking. 

It appears that when the pursuit of fitness transcends into an obsession, it no longer serves its primary purpose of enhancing well-being. Instead, it potentially spirals into a counterproductive cycle, impacting mental health adversely.

So, if you know a man who seems to live at the gym, who’s perpetually dissatisfied despite his fitness gains, or who prioritizes his workout regimen over everything else, it might be time to read between the lines. 

This behavior could be a mask for underlying struggles, a coping mechanism for dealing with deeper issues that he himself may be unable to pinpoint. 

2) Neglecting personal care

Swinging to the other end of the spectrum, neglecting personal care can also be a subtle indicator that a man is grappling with his emotional well-being

A 2016 study backs this up, highlighting how those battling depression might let their personal care routines slide. 

And often, they do it without even realizing it.

So, what signs should we look out for?

Well, it might be as simple as forgoing daily grooming habits, like shaving or maintaining a hairstyle, to more obvious signs, like wearing the same clothes repeatedly without washing them or ignoring dental hygiene. 

Changes like these, especially when they represent a departure from previous habits, can be telling.

Of course, a bit of a dip in grooming habits doesn’t immediately suggest a man is unhappy; he might just be busy, or maybe he’s trying a more rugged look. To really tell, you’ll also have to watch out for a few other signs like this next one. 

3) Overworking

Do you know a man who seems to live at the office? The kind of guy who is always the last to leave, even when there’s no pressing deadline?

Such behavior might seem commendable, but things are not always as they seem. When struggling, instead of withdrawing or showing a lack of motivation, some men do the exact opposite and throw themselves into their work to an extreme degree. 

This can be a telltale sign of deeper issues. Indeed, WebMD has pointed out that overworking can be a sign of clinical depression, especially in men. 

So, if you find someone you know constantly buried in work, unable to step back and take a breather, it might be time to read between the lines. This over-commitment to work could be more than just a strong work ethic; it could be a sign that something deeper needs addressing. 

4) A reliance on alcohol or drugs

You knew this one was coming. 

Using substances like alcohol or drugs as a coping mechanism for unresolved unhappiness is a tale as old as time. But people so often shrug it off as letting their hair down or blowing off some steam that we tend to think it is normal. 

Having an occasional drink to wind down doesn’t typically suggest a problem. A reliance on substances is not normal, however.

And it’s an issue more so with men. Some estimates suggest that men are as much as four times more likely to be dependent on alcohol than women. 

Look out for behaviors like regularly overdoing it on nights out or having a pattern of turning to alcohol or drugs during tough times. These habits may indicate that someone is using substances as a coping mechanism rather than addressing underlying issues.​

5) Overreacting to minor issues

Does the man you have in mind tend to blow things out of proportion over seemingly minor issues? 

Many believe that when people are unhappy, they tend to become detached—and this can indeed be true. However, it’s a misconception that unhappiness is always marked by sadness and withdrawal. 

For some, anger, irritability, and impatience can be signs of deeper emotional distress, such as depression. Indeed, some researchers have observed a notable link between anger issues and depression, suggesting that depression can significantly amplify these behaviors. 

So what does this mean day-to-day?

It means that an overreaction to minor issues might not just be due to someone having a bad day; it could be an indicator of underlying unhappiness or depression. When everyday inconveniences provoke disproportionate responses, it’s often a signal that there’s more going on beneath the surface.

6) Oversleeping or undersleeping

Our bodies are complex machines, and our sleep patterns can often alert us to problems even before we consciously acknowledge there’s an issue. 

As noted by Johns Hopkins Medicine, individuals suffering from insomnia, for instance, may find themselves at a significantly higher risk—up to tenfold—of developing depression compared to those who enjoy a restful night’s sleep. 

Recognizing and addressing sleep irregularities early on is so important. 

But of course, unless you’re living in the same house or sharing a bed, this can be a challenging sign to observe in someone else. 

So, how can we spot this? 

It might come through in conversations about feeling perpetually tired, complaints about not being able to fall or stay asleep, or even mentions of sleeping too much without ever feeling rested. Frequent yawning, a heavy reliance on caffeine, or a noticeable lack of energy can also be telltale signs.

7) Measuring self-worth with material possessions

In my twenties, I had a friend who always focused on material possessions, constantly talking about the latest gadgets he wanted to buy, the designer clothes he thought he needed, and the luxury car he dreamed of driving. 

It was as if his entire self-worth was tied up in these things. He would often go to great lengths to acquire these items, even if it meant stretching his finances thin.

Why do you think he did this?

Most people would say low self-esteem.

And they’d be right. Research consistently suggests a strong link between materialism and low self-esteem. 

Men often resort to flaunting material wealth as a way to prove their worth, not just to others but to themselves as well. This is hardly surprising given the rise of male ‘influencers’ who seem to spend most of their time showing off their fancy cars, sprawling mansions, and luxurious lifestyles. 

However, as noted by WebMD, “ Low self-esteem has been shown to lead to mental and physical health issues like depression.”

There’s nothing wrong with enjoying the fruits of one’s labor, but it’s crucial to understand the difference between celebrating success and using material wealth as a crutch for self-esteem. 

The next time you see a man(or woman) flaunting his latest luxury acquisition, it might be worth considering whether this display is a cry for help, a sign that they’re grappling with issues beneath the surface.

The bottom line

While men may not always wear their hearts on their sleeves, subtle behaviors like the ones above can reveal underlying unhappiness. 

From an obsession with fitness to a reliance on material possessions, these signs call for a closer look beyond the surface. 

As always, I hope you found this post gave you some food for thought. 

Until next time. 

Mal James

Mal James

Originally from Ireland, Mal is a content writer, entrepreneur, and teacher with a passion for self-development, productivity, relationships, and business.

As an avid reader, Mal delves into a diverse range of genres, expanding his knowledge and honing his writing skills to empower readers to embark on their own transformative journeys.

In his downtime, Mal can be found on the golf course or exploring the beautiful landscapes and diverse culture of Vietnam, where he is now based.

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