What is Male Depression and how does it differ from normal depression?
Male depression has been a very well kept secret until Terry Real published his book "I don't want to talk about it; Overcoming the Secret legacy of Male Depression" in 1977.
Since then a number of prominent Psychologists have written and educated our profession of Psychology about this condition, the most recent one being David Wexler.
In his book "Is he depressed or what?" David describes how male depression shows itself differently from normal depression.
Men who appear "successful" can often mask their depression with workaholism, substance abuse, withdrawing from their intimate relationships, and defensive and sometimes aggressive behaviour with others.
Depressed men are more likely to talk about physical symptoms such as headaches, insomnia and stomach upset rather than emotional symptoms.
If you are one of these men, you may also be aware of feeling stressed or tired, but not be aware of much else emotionally.
To simplify a generalisation, while women tend to think and process their emotions when they are depressed, men instead tend to act, so they turn to an activity that they enjoy or they distract themselves from their bad emotions.
While distraction can come in very handy at times, the pattern of avoiding uncomfortable emotional states often leads to avoidance, minimization and acting out. There are 4 ways a man will usually avoid feeling bad:
The 4 Characteristics of Male Depression
1. A discontent with yourself
2. Antagonism and blame towards others
3. Exaggerated behaviour
4. Avoidance and escape
These can also overlap with some of the normal depression symptoms of pessimism, despondency, sleep and appetite disturbances, but usually are features on their own as a way of fending off an underlying depression.
1. Discontent with yourself
One of the primary features of Male depression is a profound unhappiness with yourself.
If you have experienced a loss in your life, a demotion, a business failure, a relationship ending, a reduction in financial assets or any other kind of loss, it can be difficult not to take it personally, and feel shame and self-criticism.
It can also be a further blow to your ego for those around you to be diagnosing you with depression, which is the antithesis of being a strong male.
Although this occurrence may be temporary and/or based on circumstance, it can be difficult not to see as a personal failure.
2. Antagonism and blaming others
In these larger situations where you feel a failure, or even smaller occasions when you are feeling somewhat powerless, hurt or threatened, it can be all too easy to get tripped up with unknown vulnerable emotions that you are not really aware of, and find yourself responding by "puffing yourself up" to go on the offensive.
On so many occasions then, it can feel like your emotional survival depends on fending off any other experiences that make you feel worse about yourself or more hopeless of the future. The best defence it seems is a good offence.
So when you smell danger, as in situations that might make you feel bad about yourself, you proactively go on the attack.
And often the ones you attack are those closest to you, including your partner.
The movie "Good Will Hunting" is a great example of a man who goes on the offensive and attacks his girlfriend, when she has asked him to move to California with her, which brought up his insecurities and had him feeling like he had to defend himself by attacking her and telling her he didn't love her.
Another form of blaming and antagonistic behaviour can be expressed through suspiciousness and mistrust.
When you are feeling insecure and worried in a situation with a partner, it can be all too easy to blame her for being untrustworthy, even if she isn't, which over time can then become a self- fulfilling prophecy of mistrust and betrayal.
It is important to understand how this happens, as many men are capable are changing this pattern when you know how and why it is happening.
3. Exaggerated behaviour
When you are not aware of your underlying bad feelings about yourself and depression, your typical response may well be to prove you're a man with exaggerated hyper-masculine behaviours.
This can be by seeking out excessively stimulating experiences, or drinking to excess, or taking drugs, or going out looking for a fight (desperately looking for something to be angry about), or wanting lots of sex.
4. Avoidance and Escape
When you realise that you are deliberately engineering to keep yourself away from any situations in your life that you don't want to be in, you are using avoidance patterns in your life. Some go as far as systematically (or unconsciously) refusing to put themselves in situations where they may get hurt or suffer loss, like in relationships at all.
A little bit of this is normal for men, but too much of it can signify underlying depression which can seriously destroy their relationship.
This avoidance, although a drive for emotional protection for a man makes sense in some way, but it is very corrosive to both yourself and your relationship.
To help you assess if you are suffering from male depression take our Male Depression Quiz.
The overwhelming majority of depressed men who recognise and deal with their condition do so because their partners have recognised, encouraged and at times insisted on it.
As Terry Real has said "Depression is one of psychology's greatest success stories. 90% of those who seek treatment report substantial relief."
So please don't hesitate to call us.
For help with either Male depression or normal depression, please contact us at HartPsychologists. We have Psychologists to help you in all capital cities and more: Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, Canberra, Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast.
You don't need to suffer on your own.