Signs A Man Needs Help (But Won’t Ask For It)

Signs A Man Needs Help (But Won’t Ask For It)

Society often teaches men to mask their struggles, to power through emotional pain instead of asking for help when they desperately need it. Sadly, beneath the stoicism, many men are hurting. Learning to recognize the subtle signals they need support can make a profound difference in their lives. Here are some red flags to look out for. If you notice them, do your best to be there for them.

1. Changes in sleep patterns, like either sleeping too much or too little

Disrupted sleep is a hallmark of many physical and mental health struggles. Difficulty falling asleep, restless nights, or waking up exhausted could indicate anxiety or depression. On the flip side, excessive sleeping can be a way of withdrawing and numbing difficult emotions. While one restless night isn’t cause for alarm, if you notice persistent changes in a man’s sleep habits, it’s worth a compassionate check-in.

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2. Sudden irritability or angry outbursts

Unexplained anger often masks underlying pain. While everyone has a short fuse sometimes, frequent irritability or rage disproportionate to the situation might signal deeper issues. Increased cynicism, a pervasive negative outlook, or lashing out at loved ones are signs he might be carrying a burden and using anger as a shield.

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3. Increased substance abuse or risky behavior

Turning to alcohol, drugs, gambling, or reckless behaviors can be a way to numb emotional pain or seek an adrenaline rush that temporarily masks inner turmoil. Engaging in activities that have significant potential for harm, especially if out of character for him, are a major red flag. While the behavior needs to be addressed, understand that it’s often a desperate attempt at coping with something difficult rather than simply irresponsibility.

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4. Isolating himself and withdrawing from usual activities

Pulling away from friends, family, and hobbies he used to love is a classic depression symptom, per Mayo Clinic. Maybe he cancels plans more often, makes excuses not to socialize, or loses interest in things that used to bring him joy. Isolation further worsens mental health, creating a vicious cycle. If he seems disengaged with life and the people in it, it’s time to gently reach out.

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5. Putting on a fake smile and dismissing your concerns

Men are conditioned to hide “weakness.” He may insist everything is fine, put on a brave face, or use humor to deflect when you ask how he’s doing. Don’t take this dismissiveness as a sign he doesn’t need help. Rather than directly confronting him, let him know you’re there to listen without judgment when he’s ready and focus on offering non-intrusive support.

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6. Appetite changes or neglecting personal hygiene

Both drastic shifts in eating habits (overeating or loss of appetite) and a decline in self-care can signal a struggle with mental health. Maybe he skips showers, wears the same clothes for days, or loses interest in activities related to his appearance. While easily dismissed as laziness, these changes indicate that the internal struggle has become so consuming that even basic tasks feel overwhelming.

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7. Becoming overly focused on work or other distractions

stressed man working out financesShutterstock

Workaholic tendencies can mask an avoidance of dealing with emotional issues. Burying himself in work or obsessively finding distractions (video games, endless scrolling on social media) becomes a way to numb out pain rather than confront it. While dedication to a career is admirable, a total inability to disconnect, even when it’s harming his relationships or health, points to a deeper imbalance.

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8. Making self-deprecating jokes or expressing feelings of hopelessness

Pay attention to the throwaway phrases some men use – “I’m useless,” “nothing I do matters,” or self-deprecating humor that feels more bitter than playful. This leak of negativity reveals a damaged self-esteem. He might brush it off as just joking, but expressions of hopelessness or a lack of self-worth are red flags, especially if they occur with increasing frequency.

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9. Unexplained illnesses that doctors can’t find the cause of

Depression and anxiety can manifest in physical ways. Headaches, stomach issues, muscle tension, or unexplained aches and pains might be his body expressing emotional distress. If medical tests rule out any underlying cause, and stress seems a likely culprit, encouraging him to address his mental health alongside managing the physical symptoms is vital.

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10. A decline in his performance at work or school

If a man generally committed to his job or studies suddenly starts slacking, missing deadlines, or showing uncharacteristic apathy, something deeper might be going on. Mental health struggles profoundly impact concentration, motivation, and the ability to handle responsibilities. While needing accountability is understandable, approaching this from a place of concern rather than accusation can open the door to offering support.

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11. Picking fights or finding reasons to push loved ones away


Sabotaging healthy relationships can be a subconscious defense mechanism driven by a deep-rooted fear of getting hurt or feeling unworthy of love. If he finds fault in everything, creates unnecessary drama, or becomes overly critical, it might be his way of justifying why he doesn’t deserve good things and pushing people away before they can “abandon” him.

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12. Minimizing his problems or comparing them to everyone else’s

man upset on end of bed, girlfriend behindistock

Men often downplay their pain, saying things like, “It’s not that bad, other people have it worse.” This stems from the idea that their feelings are invalid unless deemed objectively the most difficult in the world. Gently remind him that suffering isn’t a competition, and his struggles deserve attention and care, even if others experience different or more intensified pain.

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13. Being afraid of being a burden or refusing help

The belief that he has to handle everything solo is a heavy burden for many men. If you offer help, even with small tasks, and are met with defensiveness or pushback, it’s a telltale sign he feels undeserving of support or worries about inconveniencing others. Reassuring him that caring for him isn’t a burden, and offering practical forms of help he’s comfortable accepting, might make him feel less alone.

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14. Losing his sense of humor

If finding the funny side of situations used to be second nature to him but now even happy moments elicit a muted response, it’s concerning. Anhedonia – the inability to feel pleasure, as WebMD explains – is a depression symptom. Don’t pressure him to be happy, but express concern about the shift in his emotional landscape and suggest he try an activity you know he used to find enjoyable.

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15. Talking a lot about death, the futility of existence, or wanting to escape

lonely man outdoors near bridge

These comments are NOT to be dismissed as mere dark humor. If thoughts about death, the lack of life’s meaning, or wanting to disappear become recurring themes, these are major warning signs. Even if couched in nonchalance, they signal a man in deep despair. Don’t hesitate to directly yet gently ask if he’s considered harming himself and offer to help him find professional support.

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16. Changing his personality drastically overnight

upset man with wine bottles

If a generally easy-going man becomes persistently angry, or if a cautious man suddenly engages in reckless behaviors, take note. Significant personality changes may signal an underlying mental health struggle or a cryptic way of seeking attention he doesn’t know how to explicitly vocalize. Approaching this with concern, not judgment, paves the way for offering support.

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Phoebe Mertens is a writer, speaker, and strategist who has helped dozens of female-founded and led companies reach success in areas such a finance, tech, science, and fashion. Her keen eye for detail and her innovative approach to modern womanhood makes her one of the most sought-out in her industry, and there's nothing she loves more than to see these companies shine.

With an MBA from NYU's Stern School of Business and features in Forbes and Fast Company she Phoebe has proven she knows her stuff. While she doesn't use social media, she does have a private Instagram just to look at pictures of cats.