Men and Depression: How does depression affect men?
Below are three very different cases of men and depression or male depression:
• Bill has been married for 5 years. He works hard in a construction job. His friends at work think he is sociable, but private. When he comes home he starts drinking and does not stop until he falls asleep in front of the TV. Some nights he barely speaks to his wife. He never discusses how he feels.
• Geoff cannot raise the energy to do anything but watch TV. He is on disability allowance and sees no point in even trying to find work. He feels like a failure and is convinced nothing will ever change.
• Simon gets angry at the slightest problem. At work, he is known for being a perfectionist. Over the past year, he has started working harder and harder. He starts work at 7.30am and some nights does not come home until 8.00pm. He sometimes thinks he is only happy when he is working. A couple of weeks ago someone was less than enthusiastic about one of his ideas. He flew into a rage and was not able to calm down until a few days later.
These men are all suffering from depression. It is affecting them all differently, and so showing itself in different ways. Nevertheless, it is still depression!
Men and Depression: Men do become depressed
Depression has often been thought of as an illness that only affects women. The truth is very different which is why this page focuses specifically on men and depression because men also get depression. For various reasons mental health professionals are often quite poor at picking-up male depression; perhaps because men show symptoms in different ways from women.
For a man, depression can be hard to recognize, especially if the concept of depression is foreign to him. When men are depressed, they often feel that they are not coping well enough or that they are not doing a good enough job. They tend to feel frustrated and angry, and sometimes drink or use drugs to unwind from work. Hypercritical of themselves and other people, they often feel like they are losing control.
Men and Depression: What makes men prone to depression?
It can be hard today being a man. The old certainties that anchored your grandparents and even your parents have largely vanished. You can no longer take it for granted that you will have a job for life. Nor can you take it for granted that you will remain in a mutually sustaining and fulfilling relationship. The overall divorce rate is currently between 30 – 50%. You may be unsure about the role you are now required to play in modern society. Perhaps even more troubling, you may be confused over how to conduct yourself in your day-to-day personal life. This confusion and complication can put strains on you that would be difficult to recognize and deal with, even if you knew how. Inner conflict negatively affects your quality of life, your relationships and your ability to enjoy pleasurable activities.
Men and Depression: Men and life change
Change is our constant companion. Inner conflict and confusion are natural psychological processes that everyone experiences. Indeed, relatively brief periods of psychic turmoil may even be useful, as long as the turmoil stops when the problem is resolved. Bigger problems, that involve a clash between your expectations of yourself as a man and the role society expects you to play, have more serious consequences, and can be harder to resolve without help. These conflicts have the possibility of being long drawn out and depressing. An ongoing problem without an obvious solution is depressing for everyone…not just men.
Much of the source of conflict that unsettles us comes from within. But every reaction is a combination of how you think about yourself and how you interpret the world in which you live. If you experience anger and irritability, especially towards people close to you, think about what the triggers for this might be, and why they make you feel this way.
Men and Depression: Men need to feel in control
As they grow up, boys are encouraged to think of themselves as being in control. They are rewarded for making practical things happen. A young boy is an active and even aggressive participant in his own upbringing. Most parents will acknowledge that boys require much more discipline than girls.
One consequence of this interaction between a young boy and his caregivers is that boys often feel they have a right to attention from whom ever is around them. They learn that if they demonstrate a need, they will eventually get attention. This holds true, irrespective of whether the upbringing was horrible or wonderful. Boys are treated as if their demands warrant attention (even if that attention is a beating).
Men and Depression: When we have low control
If we are made to feel that we have low control, or that our actions are ineffective, then these feelings can be very hard for men to tolerate. Situations such as stress at work, and problems that combine perceived low control with high expectations are particularly troublesome, as men gain a lot of their sense of self worth from their workplace activity. Times when men are out of work can be particularly difficult. The traditional role of breadwinner is deeply ingrained in the male psyche. Men seem to need both activity and structure to keep their sense of well being intact. When this combination is not present they are at risk of psychological problems.
Men and Depression: How do men express their emotional problems?
Men can have trouble expressing their emotions. Perhaps a more accurate statement would be that men do not easily recognize their emotions, certainly not with the ease that women can do. This carries a psychological as well as a physical toll. This is one reason that men suffer higher levels of cardiac heart disease, heart attacks and other serious life threatening illness and diseases. Growing up, men are encouraged, and even rewarded for not talking about times when they feel down, hurt, pain, feeling discouraged, feeling hopeless or feeling suicidal. Men generally have fewer outlets for emotions that come from negative aspects of living. This leaves them without ways of processing these events, so negative feelings may turn into chronic stress and depression. It is not surprising that men live shorter lives than women.
Men and Depression: The male role
Men often experience depression as feeling inferior, weak and small. Boys are encouraged to compete with others and to win. Men carry with them their childhood, and the urgings of their parents and teachers to do better, try harder and be successful. This burden of “I must succeed”, can be a terrible weight to carry. Human beings are truly remarkable in their capacity to internalize these messages and to make them a part of their future, despite their utility.
Men and Depression: Male sexuality
Male sexual ability is often intimately linked with a sense of self worth and success. Yet, the myth that the male must be ‘ever ready’ and be always able to perform sexually is nothing more than nonsense. If you are in a stressful job, you are tired, or you have had an argument with your partner your sexual response may be affected. If at times you cannot maintain an erection, don’t worry about it. Few erection problems are organic in nature and most are a response to stress or some other inner turmoil. The fact is that about half of men between the ages of 40 – 60 will periodically have trouble with their erections. But a man often interprets this in a personally threatening negative way. Indeed, it is relatively common for sexual problems to precipitate an episode of depression in a man. Because sexual ability and self esteem are so closely linked for many men, inability to perform for good reasons may lead a man to think even more catastrophic and depressing thoughts. Problems with sexual performance can be addressed using a little compassion and thoughtful insight into the causes and remedies of the problems you struggle with.
Men and Depression: How can men fight depression?
We have to start from the recognition that things are not right at the moment. Not because you are weak or at fault in any way, but because a number of psychological processes are conspiring to affect the way you think about things. This journey to unhappiness has taken some time and therefore it is reasonable to expect that recovery and well being will also take some time.
Men and Depression: Allow yourself the time to change how you feel
You have to give yourself a break and recognize that you cannot feel good again within a few hours or a day. It will take a little time and effort on your part. And this is the critical part of this. Men are used to taking control and making things happen. Depression often arises when Men have lost sight of what they need to do to solve this particular problem. Every problem has a solution and the solution to depression is in the activity you take to fight back from it.
Men and Depression: The three N’s of Active Self Help
Here is the key to fighting back from depression. This works particularly well for men as it is a process that can be done without necessarily having to see a therapist and without having to confide in people, if you don’t want to:
Men and Depression: First you NEED to recognize what the problem really is
Depression is a consequence not a cause. You are feeling depressed because you are engaged in faulty and unhelpful thinking processes. The process of faulty thinking makes you feel negative about yourself, it convinces that you have lost control over your life and it makes you feel a failure. Because it is faulty thinking it takes you to the wrong places. It leads you to draw the wrong conclusions about things. It leads you to misinterpret the meanings of things you thought you knew well. Faulty and unhelpful thinking can be challenged and changed. All that is really needed is a decent life change strategy.
Men and Depression: Second you NEED to know what to do about this faulty thinking process
You are not alone in your depression, the fact is there are millions of people both men and women who have traveled this path before you. There is a very good road map that can take you out of depression and back to well being. It simply needs to be followed. There is an alternative, however, but not a very appealing one. This is to wait for the depression to pass naturally. Most depression passes within about 18 months. The problem is that if you don’t deal with it appropriately this time you are very vulnerable to a recurrence in the not too distant future.
Depression tells you nothing but lies about yourself. If you don’t challenge the lies you come to believe them and once you fully believe a lot of lies the truth finds it harder and harder to retain a foothold in your mind.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) in the form of computer based cognitive behavioral therapy (cCBT) is a great way of remaining private but getting all the tools you need to fight back from depression.
Men and Depression: Third you NEED to engage with a form of computerized CBT therapy
Start a structured cCBT course and follow the path it lays out for you. Look this is quite simple. If you follow a course of computerized CBT you will start to feel better and your recovery will be more in your control. For many men this is all the treatment needed. Alternatively you can wait it out but the cost in terms of family, career and your own long term well being is high.