142. What is Male Depression Syndrome?

This posting came from StoriedMind, a blog written by John Folk-Williams.

David Wexler, a psychotherapist who has written several books about depression in men, describes “male depression syndrome” as consisting of four main patterns.

Discontent with Self: Profoundly unhappy with themselves, these men are harshly self-critical and also deeply ashamed at being hobbled and weakened, though they often don’t want to talk about it. They may not be aware of depression or have any words to describe what they’re going through but feel ashamed at not making it. They feel they can’t do the things that men are supposed to do – take action, be successful at work, be in control of their feelings, command respect.

Antagonism and Blame: Feeling ineffectual and hurt but not able or willing to discuss what they feel, men turn outward. Sometimes, they demand the respect from others they no longer feel for themselves and get furiously angry if they believe they’re not being listened to. They can also avoid feeling worse about themselves by making others – especially their partners – to blamefor their problems. Wexler believes it’s part of an avoidance strategy to limit the inner damage or risk that they could be hurt even worse. That can lead to fending off intimacy, getting angry at emotional “demands” and denying they feel any love for their partners at all.

Exaggerated Behavior: Especially when men are unaware of their own depression and unwilling to look at their feelings, they may overcompensate for feeling less strong, less “manly” than they believe they should be. They might start drinking more heavily or craving more sex or blow up in anger and rage at little or no provocation. They want to prove that they’re still “strong” and full of feeling and drive.

Avoidance and Escape: To protect themselves psychologically, men may try to avoid all situations that could deepen emotional pain. The most common thing is to refuse to talk about feelings at all. Instead, they try to create emotional distance whenever their partners want to bring up anything that sounds like fear, sadness, grief or hurt.

As I think about my own actions and read the stories so many women tell, one thing stands out. Men will go to extraordinary lengths to reorganize their entire lives to avoid dealing with depression.

I believe this has to with the expectation that men should be powerful. They need to be able to perform, to get the job done, to be in control, to provide, to protect those who depend on them. In depression, they can’t. They have to deal with vulnerabilities that feel like shameful failures, and they have a hard time doing that.

They may admit they can’t handle things anymore and hate themselves, but at the same time refuse therapy and turn away from their intimate partners. Getting help and being intimate would only put them right in the midst of the feelings they want to avoid.

If you are one of these men, get help. If you know one of these men, be his friend and help him recognize he needs help. It is a foolish man who refuses the help he needs and sinks into the bottomless pit of depression.  There are too many foolish men out there. Don’t be one of them.

About Patrick Day

In 2010, I escaped from four long years of deep, dark depression. This blog shares lessons I learned from those years as depicted in my autobiography - How I Escaped from Depression - as well as other insights about depression and anxiety that only come from someone who has gone through it. When you have a heart attack, you become an expert in heart attacks. When you have diabetes, you become an expert in that condition. As such, I am an expert in depression, with a four-year experiential degree and graduate studies in how to live a life going forward that keeps the ever-lurking Depression at a healthy distance.
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