Men account for about two thirds of all people who suffer from depression, but they are much less likely than women are to talk about it with friends or seek professional help. Instead, men tend to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol, engage in risky behavior, or spend all their time working. Even worse, men are far more likely than women to die by suicide. Depression is also harder to recognize in men. It often looks more like irritability or aggression than sadness or despondency. This pattern of silence and self-medication is clearly self-destructive, so why are men more reluctant to talk about their depression?
“Men don’t cry.”
Perhaps the biggest barrier to men talking about depression is the cultural ideal that men should be stoic and self-sufficient. Boys are told from a young age to be tough, to keep a stiff upper lip, and not cry. One common symptom of depression is crying for no apparent reason. No one is eager to share with his friends that he sometimes feels overwhelmed with sadness and starts crying uncontrollably for no apparent reason. Not only does he know he shouldn’t bring it up, he also knows how his friends would respond. Of course, a good friend would be supportive, but when you’re depressed, you expect the worst. When you’re overwhelmed with feelings you “shouldn’t” have, the critical voice in your head gets even louder. These cultural expectations are one reason depression seems to manifest differently in men and women. Studies have shown that the symptoms of depression are actually pretty similar in men and women–depressed mood, irritability, anger, aggression, stress, and anxiety were chosen by men and women as the top symptoms of depression. The difference is that men are more comfortable saying they are angry or irritable and less comfortable saying they are sad, while women are more comfortable saying they are sad and less comfortable saying they are angry.
Many people don’t recognize the symptoms.
Not everyone experiences depression in the same way. Most people think of depression as sadness, but not everyone experiences sadness. Often, depression feels like emotional numbness, lethargy, lack of motivation, or even physical pain. There’s also a common belief that depressed people sleep all the time. That’s often true, but insomnia is also very common, especially the kind that wakes you up at three in the morning and doesn’t let you get back to sleep. It’s not obvious to most people that irritability, emotional numbness, and insomnia add up to depression. If the possibility hadn’t crossed your mind, you wouldn’t bring it up with a doctor or therapist. However, if you were willing to talk to friends and loved ones about it, they might be able to point you in the right direction.
Asking for help means being vulnerable.
Asking for help can be hard for anyone, but it’s harder if you believe you’re always supposed to be self-sufficient and in control. Asking for help means trusting other people, and sometimes revealing things about ourselves we would rather stay hidden. What’s more, talking about emotions is a skill that not everyone has. It must be learned for therapy to be effective, and like any new skill, the early tries are awkward.
If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction or depression, we can help. Recovery Ways is a premier drug and alcohol addiction treatment facility located in Salt Lake City, Utah. We have the resources to effectively treat a dual diagnosis. Our mission is to provide the most cost-effective, accessible substance abuse treatment to as many people as possible. Request information online or call us today at 1-888-986-7848.