Is Your Husband Depressed? Depression isn’t just a female condition. It’s true depression is more common in females than in males. The prevalence is due to biological, hormonal and social factors unique to women, however, depression isn’t just a female thing. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) shows in a 2017 study the following:
- An estimated 17.3 million adults in the United States had at least one major depressive episode. This number represented 7.1% of all U.S. adults.
- The prevalence of major depressive episode was higher among adult females (8.7%) compared to males (5.3%).
Man in denial about his depression
Depression is not to be taken lightly. Clinical depression goes far beyond “having a bad day.” We tend not to recognize depression in men because the disorder itself is looked at as unmanly. Depression carries the stain of stigma of mental illness and also the stigma of femininity. Women in a relationship with a depressed man are often faced with a painful dilemma. As a marriage counselor, couples come in to see me for communication issues, loss of intimacy, and infidelity. Often times the presenting problems have underlying issues of male depression.
Women married to depressed men have two options. They can either confront him about his depression or collude with him minimizing it. There’s already a certain amount of shame that goes with having depression in general, but for a man, it is shame filled and shameful. Depression in men goes unrecognized and unacknowledged by the men who suffer and by those around them. The hidden condition is enormous. Men and women handle feelings differently. Females are socialized to allow for emotional expressiveness and foster emotional connection while being systematically discouraged from asserting their authentic selves. Males are socialized to greatly encourage their assertive public selves while being discouraged from exercising emotional connectedness and developing skills for making and appreciating that connection.
As a result, men tend to internalize their feelings and when these feelings are left suppressed or repressed, they can erupt like a volcano. Depression in some men can manifest itself through rage, aggressiveness, withdrawal, irritability, and frustration. Physical symptoms include headaches, feelings of restlessness, agitation, appetite change, fatigue to name a few. Alcohol and drug abuse/dependency, as well as working long hours at the job, is another sign where the underlying issue is depression.
No two people are affected the same way by depression and there is no “one-size-fits-all” for treatment. Typically medication and talk therapy is the mode of treatment. As a marriage and family therapist, men I work with are opposed to medication as they think taking medication is a sign of weakness. I tell them if they had Leukemia or Diabetes they would surely have no qualms about taking them. In addition to medication and counseling men can incorporate some of these tips to managing their depression:
- Regularize your schedule. Eat, sleep, exercise at the same time.
- Try to be active and exercise.
- Set realistic goals for yourself.
- Try to spend time with other people and confide in a trusted friend or relative.
- Try not to isolate yourself, and let others help you.
- Expect your mood to improve gradually, not immediately.
- Postpone important decisions. Discuss decisions with others who know you well and have a more objective view of your situation.
- Continue to educate yourself about depression.
It may take some trial and error to find the treatment that works best for you but doing nothing will have you feeling and doing more of the same. Contact me at (858) 735-1139 or email me at [email protected] for more information about male depression and what it’s doing to you and your family.