Depression in Disguise: Men Who Suffer
As someone who speaks candidly about the stigma of mental illness, I have somehow never mentioned men who suffer from undiagnosed, untreated depression.
For reasons that we can all speculate about individually, men are less likely to label their negative affect and thoughts as depression and are more likely to resort to alcohol or drugs, violence, gambling and even womanizing in order to combat their feelings of mental discomfort.
As I spoke of last week, nearly half the population view mental illness as some sort of personal weakness. I would wager that when discussing men and depression that this number is quite fitting. It goes against everything a man is stereotypically supposed to represent: strong, silent, in control, powerful and commanding.
The website www.mensdepression.org has a mandate of alleviating the stigma surrounding male depression which they place into two groups: overt and covert depression.
Covert depression can be masked, in their view, as workaholism, alcoholism, problems with intimacy and even rage and violence. Overt depression, is the more clinical view of withdrawal from previously enjoyed activities, inability to sleep or sleeping too much, thoughts of suicide and self-harm and difficulty with concentration.
Overt and Covert Depression
However, they hypothesize that it is the covert depression that we really need to start focusing on.
I have always believed that addiction in men is often a signal of an undiagnosed mental health concern. As I work in a treatment centre for men, I have yet to see one client with an alcohol addiction that didn’t at least have some semblance of covert depression. It is often not until these men get some sobriety that they fully come to realize the effect that depression has been having on their thoughts, feelings and actions.
Like anything else in the mental health field, there are no easy answers. But the first thing that men need to do is to put their pride aside and start talking openly about depression. We’re not doing anyone any favours by pretending that we should be ‘tougher’ than depression or that we don’t experience painful emotions the same way that women do.
Boys Don't Cry
We need to end the ‘boys don’t cry’ mentality that is predominant in Western society.
The founders of www.mensdepression.org feel that women tend to experience depression in the form of feelings of worthlessness, sadness or excessive guilt whereas men may experience frustration, discouragement, irritability, anger and can even become abusive. Untreated depression in men can also have catastrophic results. Although women attempt suicide at a rate four times higher than men, men complete suicide attempts at a much higher rate.
There is an obvious reason for this statistic: namely, men are more likely to use highly lethal means such as weapons or hanging when attempting suicide. But if we were to open the dialogue, perhaps creating a society where it is acceptable for men to talk about their depression, we may be able to lessen the number of completed suicides in men.
Having depression doesn’t make you weak. It doesn’t make you different. It doesn’t make you any lesser than. It can happen to anyone and isn’t anything to be ashamed of.
I’m a man and I’ve suffered depression.
Curry, C. (2013, April 2). Depression in Disguise: Men Who Suffer, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, September 19 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/survivingmentalhealthstigma/2013/04/depression-in-disguise-men-who-suffer
Author: Chris Curry
I was just thinking about my dad, he (I believe) was an alcoholic by the time my brother and I were born (twins, I'm the daughter). I have always believed him to have suffered from depression from physiological reasons, just to mention one I believe he was a type 2 diabetic, (no insurance but he prolly wouldn't gone anyway. There was a time period where he was out of work and very angry and abusive, which has left scars on me, and mostly my brother -he got the worst part of it.
But, our dad was a loving man, and I know he hated the way he was when he was out of control.
Thank you for this great article. I hope dialogue will open up for the men, because if there is anything I could have changed about my life, with all I've been through - it would be to have gotten help for my loving dad.
Cancer Editor, BellaOnline.com
Cancer survivor, twice
Mental health advocate