Tuesday, September 9, 2008

NPR - Silence Strengthens Impact of Depression Among Men

Men deal with depression differently than women. Often, a man won't tell anyone what is going on inside him. I know - I've been there. We were taught to suck it up and do what we need to do, and never let anyone know you feel weak, empty, and alone.

Worse yet, many men self-medicate with alcohol or other drugs, making the pain and isolation all that much worse.

Finally, more attention is being paid to this issue. This was on NPR yesterday:

Silence Strengthens Impact of Depression Among Men

Listen Now [17 min 10 sec] add to playlist

Tell Me More, September 8, 2008 · Men's Fitness magazine tackles a sensitive subject that is not often discussed: depression and men.

In this week's Behind Closed Doors segment, Chris Strauss of Men's Fitness, mental health writer John Head, and Nathaniel Reynolds, who suffered from depression, explain why depression seems to be rising among men, and why it can be challenging for men, especially black men, to accept help.

Here is some more information on how men deal with depression differently than women, from the Healthyplace.com Depression Community.

Men With Depression

When it comes to depression, men and women think differently about depressionDepression is an illness that affects both men and women. But people working in mental health services see far fewer men with depression than women with depression. It seems likely that men suffer from depression just as often as women, but that they are less likely to ask for help. Depression is easily treatable and best treated as early as possible. Men need to know what it is and how to get effective help.

It's Different For Men

Men think of themselves differently than women The way that men think about themselves can be quite unhelpful. Compared with women, they tend to be far more concerned with being competitive, powerful and successful. Most men don’t like to admit that they feel fragile or vulnerable, and so are less likely to talk about their feelings with their friends, loved ones or their doctors. This may be the reason that they often don’t ask for help when they become depressed. Men tend to feel that they should rely only on themselves and that it is somehow weak to have to depend on someone else, even for a short time.

This traditional view of how men should be - always tough and self-reliant - is also held by some women. Some men find that owning up to their depression actually results in their partner rejecting them because of this. Even professionals sometimes share this view, and may not diagnose depression in men when they should.

Symptoms of Depression

  • Feeling sad or unhappy
  • High levels of anxiety
  • Low energy
  • Difficulties concentrating
  • Feeling worthless or hopeless
  • Losing interest in activities or people
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Loss of sex drive
  • Lapses in personal hygiene, such as not bathing or shaving as regularly
  • Thoughts of suicide

The symptoms for some types of depression may also include extreme opposites of those listed above for example, unusually high or prolonged levels of energy, significant weight gain and so on.

Other people may notice that:

  • You are performing less well at work
  • You seem unusually quiet, unable to talk about things
  • You’re worrying about things more than usual
  • You’re more irritable than usual
  • You’re complaining more about vague physical problems

How Do Men Cope

Instead of talking about how they feel, men may try to make themselves feel better by using alcohol or drugs. This will usually make things worse in the long run. Their work will suffer and alcohol often leads to irresponsible, unpleasant or dangerous behavior. Men also tend to give their work a higher priority than their home life, which produces conflicts with their wives or partners. All of these things have been shown to make depression more likely.


For married men, research has shown that trouble in a marriage is the most common single problem connected with depression.For married men, research has shown that trouble in a marriage is the most common single problem connected with depression. Men can’t cope with disagreements as well as women. Arguments actually make men feel very physically uncomfortable. So, they try to avoid arguments or difficult discussions. This often leads to the situation where a man’s partner will want to talk about a problem, but he will not and will do his best to avoid talking about it. The partner feels that they are being ignored and tries to talk about it more, which makes him feel he is being nagged. So, he withdraws even more, which makes his partner feel even more that they are being ignored . . . and so on. This vicious circle can quite easily destroy a relationship.

Separation and Divorce

Men have traditionally seen themselves as being the leaders in their family lives. However, the process of separation and divorce is most often started by women. Of all men, those who are divorced are most likely to kill themselves, probably because depression is more common and more severe in this group. This may be because, as well as losing their main relationship, they often lose touch with their children, may have to move to live in a different place, and often find themselves hard-up for money. These are stressful events in themselves, quite apart from the stress of the break-up, and are likely to bring on depression.


Depressed men feel less good about their bodies and less sexy than when they’re not depressed. Many just go off sex completely. Several recent studies suggest that, in spite of this, men who are depressed have intercourse just as often, but they don’t feel as satisfied as usual. A few depressed men actually report increased sexual drive and intercourse, possibly as a way of trying to make themselves feel better. Another problem may be that some anti-depressant drugs will also reduce sex-drive in a small number of men who take them.

HOWEVER, the good news is that, as the depression improves, so will your sexual desire, performance and satisfaction.

It’s worth remembering that it can happen the other way round. Impotence (difficulty in getting or keeping an erection) can bring about depression. Again, this is a problem for which it is usually possible to find effective help.

There's more to read at the site, including a very useful list of tips on how to deal with depression more effectively. There's no need to carry the pain in silence.

Here are a few links offered at the end of the article.


How Men Handle Depression
Male Menopause
Treatments For Men With Depression
Depression in Women and Men: What's the Difference?
Cultural Expectations May Explain Why Depression is Different In Women and Men
When Someone You Love Has A Mental Illness (Resisting Medication, Relative's Anger, Your Guilt)

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