Although depression is a problem for many people, it has typically been understood as an issue that occurs more often in women. Indeed, statistics have indicated that, over the course of their lifetimes, women are about 70% more likely than men to have an episode of major depression. But what if we reconsidered how we think about depression and how it manifests? Results from a recent study suggest that when externalizing symptoms like rage, substance abuse, and risky behaviors – which are more often seen in men – are taken into account, the gender disparity begins to shrink. In fact, it essentially disappears. As a man, noticing that you struggle in the areas listed below can be an indicator that you are not just stressed or angry, but rather that you are struggling with depression. Do not let these problems go unrecognized. If these issues sound familiar, the good news is that you are not alone and help exists.
- 1. Rage. For many men, feelings of sadness, worthlessness, or hopelessness get expressed through anger or rage. It may be useful to consider whether or not your anger is masking other feelings, keeping in mind that underneath the anger might be depression.
- 2. Irritability. Similarly, feeling like you have a short fuse or that you get angry quickly can also be a sign of depression.
- 3. Risk-taking. Whereas women are often more comfortable disclosing their feelings of sadness and low self-esteem, men often direct their feelings outward through engaging in risky behavior. Your thrill seeking might not just be a way to get an adrenaline rush, but it might be a sign of deeper feelings of depression.
- 4. Substance abuse. The pain and distress associated with depression can be difficult to manage. Men often attempt to avoid or numb themselves from the pain and suffering they are feeling by misusing or abusing substances or engaging in other excessive and unhealthy behaviors. This kind of behavior can be a sign that the real issue you are dealing with is depression.
- 5. Being a workaholic. It is culturally acceptable for men to put in a great deal of time and energy into work and their career, but working too much can be a way to avoid or remove yourself from other parts of your life that are distressing you. If long work days are serving to distract you from your feelings, this might be a sign that you are experiencing depression.
- 6. Feeling “stressed.” Women are socialized to acknowledge and talk about their emotions, whereas in general men are not. Many men, therefore, lack the vocabulary to describe what they are feeling. It is not uncommon for men to describe their feelings of sadness, low self-esteem, and hopeless as just “feeling stressed,” when what they are might really be experiencing are symptoms of depression.
- 7. Hyperactivity. Men are often rewarded for being busy and taking on many responsibilities, but hyperactivity may actually be a symptom of depression. Moving from task to task and not really focusing on what is happening in the present moment can be an attempt to distract yourself from the distressing, painful feelings of depression.
Contributed by Staff Therapist, Rachel Goldsmith