Psychotherapists who are accustomed to working with men’s issues, including myself, have long been familiar with men’s diversion patterns to avoid facing and/or openly acknowledging their depression. I wish to cite books by two eminent psychotherapists concerning this epidemic tendency.
In his book I Don’t Want to Talk About It,” Terrence Real, a nationally-renowned marriage counselor, unveils a cultural “cover-up” about men’s depression. Real illuminates our societal programming that men are expected to transcend pain and vulnerability. Those who succumb to those perceived “weaknesses” often feel ashamed and are shamed by family members, friends and even by mental health professionals. Real also focuses on the “covert” depression underlying surface behaviors. The most common behavior patterns are: a)anger, which is the main “negative” emotion that men are culturally permitted to embrace and b)addictions ranging from overwork to chemical dependency in an attempt to relieve distress through socially acceptable forms of self-medicating.
The results of Jed Diamond’s extensive surveys of men’s overt irritability, revealed a number of contributing factors, including the prevalence of depression that is biochemically, hormonally and/or psychologically induced. One of Diamond’s findings was that men often express sadness through irritability and projecting blame onto life circumstances or other people, although perhaps inwardly recognizing their emotional turmoil.
Both authors indicate that men need empathic or compassionate understanding and support, especially from their partners and other significant people in their lives. Men also need to muster the courage to engage in inner work: focusing on their feelings and issues and learning direct, healthy means of resolving upsets, whatever their cause. In addition to garnering the support of partners, relatives and close friends, depressed men can benefit from reading self-help books and articles, participating in an ongoing men’s group, and from individual or group therapy. Sometimes appropriate psychotropic medications, including herbal remedies, are an integral part of the treatment regimen, for at least awhile.
Diamond, J. The Irritable Man Syndrome. New York: Rodale Press, 2004.
Real, T. I Don’t Want to Talk About It: Overcoming the Secret Legacy of Male Depression. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1997.