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That Angry Man Might Just Be
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Depression in Men
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July 30, 2016
By L. Carr, Contributing Columnist
Clinical depression was once considered a “woman’s
problem”. Men didn’t get depressed. Sure, they got angry
and they got aggressive and they used drink and drugs, but
this wasn’t depression. Now, the picture looks a little
different. Look closely at the angry man in your life – your
boss, your husband, your son. Could his anger actually be a
sign of depression? What other signs show that a man is
While women’s depression is frequently diagnosed and
recorded, with men it’s a little more complicated, despite
depression affecting both sexes.
In fact, over six million men in the US suffer from depression
each year according to the National Institute of Mental
Health. Unfortunately the idea that depression is marked by
so-called female symptoms of sadness and poor self-esteem –
not anger, aggression or substance abuse - means men who
suffer from the disease are frequently missed.
How can you tell if a man is depressed? Does depression in
men look different from depression in women?
What Is Depression?
When a man has depression it’s different from sadness,
irritability or trouble sleeping – everyone suffers from these
sometimes. When a man has depression he loses interest in
daily activities, family work, and hobbies, and has trouble
functioning as he once did.
There are different types of depression affecting both men
and women, including "major depression" which is
characterized by severe symptoms that affect a man’s ability
to sleep, work, eat, and enjoy life.
"Dysthymic disorder" is a persistent, mild depression marked
by depressive symptoms that last longer but are less severe,
and "minor depression" is also less severe.
What Are the Signs of Depression in Men?
While women may experience depression with feelings of
sadness, guilt, and hopelessness, experts are beginning to
see that men show different signs of depression – which can
include anger, increase in fatigue, irritability, loss of interest
in work and in hobbies, sleep disturbance, and substance or
In fact, men are less likely to display the typical signs of
depression such as sadness, say researchers in a 2013 study
from the University of Michigan, and instead keep feelings
more hidden. Instead of looking like the “traditional”
depressed person they may not display a depressed mood
and instead often show more irritability and aggressive
After all, the very reason that the "strong, silent type"
became famous as a "type" of man in the first place is
because it is rooted in a deep, cultural truth. Men take
expressing feelings as a sign of weakness. Keeping quiet
about your feelings is a sign of strength, of being a man.
What Causes a Man to be Depressed?
As well as displaying different signs of depression, men’s
depression may also be caused by different factors than
women. Genes play a part in both women’s and men’s
depression, as well as brain chemistry, stress, and traumatic
But men’s attitudes and behavior may make depression more
likely. For example, many men are hyper-competitive and
preoccupied with success and may not want to seek help
when stressed or suffering trauma.
Trouble in a marriage or relationship is most likely to make a
man depressed, according to the Royal College of
Psychiatrists in the UK. And a difference in communication
style between men and women makes problems multiply,
which creates further stress and anxiety.
Why Don’t We Recognize Depression Better in Men?
There are several key reasons why depression in men is not
as readily recognized as depression in women. Cultural
attitudes suggest that depression is a women’s issue, and
talking about feelings is a feminine trait, a sign of "weakness"
to be avoided at all costs by men because it challenges their
sense of manhood.
Consequently many men keep any experience of depression
well-hidden for fear of stigma, and because they do not admit
to themselves that they could suffer from the disease.
Traditionally, men are brought up to be successful, driven,
strong, and the providers for the family. When men continue
to strive for these “ideals” it can mask the signs of
depression. And men are more likely to mask depression
symptoms by drinking, taking drugs, or getting involved in
other risk-taking behavior.
Partners and wives can also inadvertently make spotting
depression in men more difficult.
A 2011 study from the University of British Columbia says
that three major patterns that emerge when a couple is
dealing with male depression, which can make it hard to treat
the condition. The conditions "trading places," where the
traditional male/female roles of homemaker and breadwinner
are switcher, "business as usual", downplaying or ignoring
depression signs, and "edgy tensions", where the
relationship becomes dysfunctional.
The cost of these cultural and behavioral expectations can be
A 2016 study from the School of Nursing, University of British
Columbia shows that stigma in “stigma in men’s depression
and suicide can restrict help-seeking, reduce treatment
compliance and deter individuals from confiding in friends
and family.” Interestingly, more men than women held
stigmatizing views about men with depression.
Depression in Men Can Be Fatal
Sadly, failing to recognize that an angry or irritable man is
depression can have fatal consequences. Men are four times
more likely to commit suicide than women, according to the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While women are
more likely to attempt suicide, men are more likely to succeed
probably because they tend to use more dangerous methods
such as shooting rather than chemical overdose.
Moreover, men who commit terrible crimes such as mass
murders and family annihilation are sometimes, after the fact,
diagnosed as clinically depressed or suffering from mental
illness -- a clarion call to all of us to regard brooding or other
signs of clinical depression in men as a public health issue
critical to all of us.
And Angry Men Who Get Depressed Could Be Harming Their
Research also shows that men who are angry, hostile and
prone to feelings of depression are harming their immune
systems and increasing their risk for heart disease, diabetes,
and high blood pressure.
A 2007 study from Duke University Medical Center looked at
313 male veterans of the Vietnam war who took a
psychological test for assessing depression, hostility, and
anger as well as blood tests for markers of internal
inflammation and heart damage.
Men who showed the highest levels of hostility and
depression had a 7.1 percent increase in inflammation levels
over a 10-year study period. These changes in the way the
body functions can lead to disease.
While men may be less likely to seek treatment for
depression, and the signs may be harder to spot, it is
increasingly clear that male depression is a serious problem
for individuals, couples, and society as a whole.
While attitudes are slowly changing, the angry man is still too
often overlooked as a candidate for depression.
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|Brooding men who keep their feelings
to themselves may be masking