He Doesn't Look Sad: Hidden Male Depression

Depression in men is often unrecognized and misinterpreted as irritability, withdrawal from true emotional intimacy and excessive alcohol use, sexual intrigue or overwork.  This article encourages both men and those who love them to recognize the signs of covert male depression.

Type "male depression" into a search engine and you'll come up with hundreds of informative sources of information. I'm going to add one more because in my many years providing psychotherapy and counseling in Atlanta I've found this to be an extremely important issue that is often overlooked.  The harsh truth is that many men are struggling with undiagnosed depressive synmptoms who often don't even recognize it in themselves until it's pointed out.

Our society typically doesn't give men easy access to the language of sadness.  The value system that proclaims that "boys don't cry" has done immense harm to millions of men and society as a whole.  As a result, many men unconsciously convert sadness and into dissatisfaction, irritability, resentment or outright rage.  I often see variants of an old term called "agitated depression" among my male clients.  There are many <a href="http://eqi.org/fw.htm">hundreds of feelings</a> but guys often only have a couple of them available to describe the whole range of their day-to-day experience.  No wonder covert male depression is the hidden culprit lurking at the core of so many issues men face.

Through the ages males have traditionally received validation as "real men" more for doing than for feeling.   Vulnerability and sadness are off-limits in this paradigm.  Guys are left with having to feel suspicious rather than scared, irritable in place of apathetic, attacking instead of withdrawing, resentful rather than self-blaming.  Is it any wonder many covertly depressed men are misidentified as intimacy deficient, short-fused or even antisocial?  It should be no surprise that lots of men address their difficult feelings with too much alcohol or sexual intrigue, or throw themselves into their work in an effort to get a sense of validation and accomplishment.  

Sometimes when I am working with couples who are locked into endless and unproductive bickering I will encourage the man to consider what would change in the relationship if he got sad instead of angry-- the entire dynamic would transform in a heartbeat. The willingness to be vulnerable is one of the strongest acts of courage a man can demonstrate to himself and others.  This seems like a real paradox to many men.  The idea that the ability to display weakness and vulnerability is a sign of strength of character is a novel idea to many males who have been raised in a culture that reinforces the unworkable idea that men should always be strong and stoic.

If you're a man who thinks some of this may apply to you, then it probably does.  There are a lot of ways to overcome depression, but the first step is to accept the real nature of the problem.  Depression is treatable, but only if it's recognized.

If you are a man in the metropolitan Atlanta area and these words speak to you, I hope you will reach out to me for help in these matters.