Recognizing depression and the feelings associated with it is culturally more difficult for men than women. Marianne Legato MD, expert in gender-specific medicine, notes “I have long been convinced that depression is under-reported, under-diagnosed, and under-treated in men, largely because of the way they’re socialized.” Men are taught directly and indirectly not to cry in sadness or pain. The message internalized by too many is not to talk about feelings – not to talk about depression. As one marine who had tragically covered his pain with alcohol described, “I was trying to be the tough marine I was trained to be — not to talk about problems, not to cry . . . I imprisoned myself in my own mind.”
- Rather than seek help, men have a tendency to self-medicate or avoid the anguish, sadness, guilt or self-doubt associated with depression. This can manifest itself in many ways, including sexual acting out, alcohol or substance abuse, risky behaviors (like reckless driving), escapist behaviors (like internet addiction to porn), or being overly involved in work or sports.
- The result is an escalation of emotional pain desperately driving more avoidance, risk, substances, suicidal thinking and a downward spiral of personal, family, and job functioning.
- Self-medication for depression puts men and those around them in harm’s way.
Unlike other illnesses there is a tendency to associate depression with weakness, vulnerability, laziness and withholding. There is a tendency to feel shame and self–blame even as one is suffering. Men often suffer alone. If they stop to consider that their physical symptoms and behaviors might hide depression – they may be able to step out of danger. If they reach for the help of a partner, a buddy, their primary physician, a mental health professional, or a spiritual caregiver – they will have taken the first step. By Suzanne Phillips, PsyD http://www.pbs.org/thisemotionallife/blogs/men-and-hidden-danger-depression
Behind my smile, is a hurting heart.
Behind my laugh, I’m falling apart.
Behind my smile, is tears at night.