He Doesn't Look Sad: Hidden 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 services 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 depression 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 sorrow into dissatisfaction, irritability 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 emotional crayons available for coloring the whole range of their day-to-day experience. When I am counseling a man, if I find that all roads invariably seem to lead to resentment, irritability or dissatisfaction then I generally suspect covert male depression is the hidden culprit lurking at the core.
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 unavailable to true intimacy, short-fused or even antisocial? It should be no surprise that lots of men self-medicate with more alcohol or sexual intrigue than is healthy for them, or throw themselves into their work in a futile 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 started crying rather than yelling -- 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 demonstrate 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 tough as nails.
By the way, I'm in no way trying to turn feelings of sadness, grief, sorrow and remorse into depression. Those are some of the most important, legitimate and necessary emotions of life. Unfortunately an entire pharmaceutical industry has convinced many people (including doctors) that these very normal emotions are indications that something is wrong with the person who has them and that they threfore need to be eliminated through medication. Nothing could be further from the truth! Facing and working through these difficult but essentially healthy emotions is the pathway to gratitude, wisdom, and compassion. But just as milk sours or wine turns to vinegar, blocked and unexpressed emotions will eventually curdle into a bitter substance that no longer has any productive value.
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. Be man enough to be sad!
If you are a man in the metropolitan Atlanta area who is struggling with sadness, irritability, loss of enjoyment in things that used to please you, marital or other relationship problems, excesive alcohol use (or other potentially addictive behaviors), then I sincerely invite you to reach out to me for help in regaining the ability to experience a life you deserve!
I hope you will take a little time to read some of my many other articles to educate, encourage and inspire you along your journey to a life you richly deserve. If I can provide more personal assistance to you, either in person, by phone or via Skype, please don't hesitate to contact me.