There are a lot of studies about depression out there. They are most certainly not all created equally. One authoritative study from about 20 years ago made depression seem like a women’s issue. While it acknowledged that men suffered from depression, it showed women suffering from a more severe type of depression by more than two to one.
Setting the Record Straight
This type of finding is a product of its time, and should be taken with an ocean of salt. Through much of history, depression has been viewed as a weakness of will. A hallmark of a real man was strength of will. A man might be ill-tempered, abusive, sullen, alcoholic, etc. But he could never be weak-willed.
Women almost had to be considered weak-willed so that men could seem strong-willed by comparison. Even if men demonstrated classic symptoms of depression, they wouldn’t necessarily be diagnosed with depression. Also, men are far less likely to self-report as depressed, or go to a therapist to be diagnosed. The National Institute of Mental Health sets the record straight:
Both men and women get depression. But men can experience it differently than women. Men may be more likely to feel very tired and irritable, and lose interest in their work, family, or hobbies. They may be more likely to have difficulty sleeping than women who have depression. And although women with depression are more likely to attempt suicide, men are more likely to die by suicide.
Just for Men
The fact that men react to depression differently means that the experience of depression is unique to men. As the wife of a person who is going through addiction triggered by depression, one of the best things you can do is find a treatment center like Prescott House: a long-term residential recovery program for men.
For some problems, men need other men to help them through it, as other men are the only ones who truly understand what is going on. Empathy requires more than intellectual ascent. That is not to say that you have nothing to contribute as a partner. It is just to acknowledge that some part of the problem and recovery is beyond your reach. That is not a personal failing. It is simple biology.
Signs of Types of Depression
There are different types and severity of depression. WebMD lists the following:
- Major Depression (Major Depressive Disorder)
- Persistent Depressive Disorder
- Bipolar Disorder (Manic Depression)
- Seasonal Affective Disorder
- Psychotic Depression
- Situational Depression
- Atypical Depression
- And two others specific to women…
Situational depression is the kind of depression we all go through in certain situations like divorce, or the loss of employment. Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) is when you feel depressed most of the time, most days of the week. Symptoms include thoughts of suicide, lethargy, and feelings of worthlessness.
We know these symptoms are particularly bad in men as they are more likely to follow through with suicide than women. Extended unemployment can make a man feel emasculated, as society places much value on what a man does for a living. It is still acceptable for women to be outside of the traditional workforce. But men have to have a paying and respectable job to fit in.
They also derive much self-esteem from their job title and paycheck. “What do you do for a living” is still a popular conversation starter. A man who cannot answer that question will feel like an outcast among a group of men who can. A man with a good job and a reliable paycheck has a better chance to maintain good credit. And that can have a profound effect on relationship success. Financial problems are always among the top ten reasons why marriages fail.
There are reasons why depression among men goes undocumented and untreated. But they are far from good reasons, just understandable reasons. If a man in your life is going through severe depression, the best thing you can do is help him find treatment. There is no shame in clinical depression. It is as much a medical problem as a broken bone, and can be treated just as well.