Male Depression and its Mask

Updated: Nov 7, 2018


According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), more than 6 million men are known to have depression each year in the United States. It is believed that number may be even higher because men typically don't recognize their symptoms and are reluctant to seek help. They mislabel depression as "apathy, low self-esteem, and anger." Men experience depression differently than women, "often masking the disorder by self-medicating with drugs or alcohol...and are four times as likely to die by suicide."


“Men tend to feel that they need to rely only on themselves and that it is somehow weak to have to depend on someone else, even for a short time,” says Frederick E. Rabinowitz, PhD, coauthor of Men and Depression: Clinical and Empirical Perspectives (Academic Press, 2000).


In general, men are more concerned with being "competitive, powerful, and successful," compared with women. Because it's hard to admit that they're feeling fragile or vulnerable, men are less likely to talk about their depression to friends, family, and sometimes even their doctors. “Culturally, women have more words to describe their inner emotional world and men have fewer words to describe it,” says Rabinowitz, who leads depression support groups for men. “So, for guys there’s more of a tendency to try to distract themselves from the nagging from that emotional world.”


Scientists and public health officials in North America are starting to bring this issue to light. Several years ago the NIMH launched a nationwide advertising campaign called "Real Men. Real Depression," challenging the idea that "mood disorders are a sign of psychological or moral weakness."


A crucial thing to remember, from men who've dealt with depression, is that "it's possible to manage the disorder with treatment and attention." Says one male depression survivor, "My advice to other men who have depression is to try to be honest—to know the self. Don’t be afraid to say, ‘I’m feeling not-so-good right now.’ There’s nothing wrong with having this even if you’re hospitalized with depression. It’s a reality. It’s not a negative. It’s not any different from a broken leg, cancer, or kidney disease. There’s recovery available for it, and there is less and less stigma associated with it."


Reference: "The Mask of Male Depression," by Michelle Roberts

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