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July 10, 2005

Male Depression Comes With Stigma

Depression in males is something that often comes with an unnecessary amount of shame attached to it. Sadly, this shame alone can often cause men to commit suicide instead of getting the help needed to deal with their feelings. Although more women attempt suicide, more men actually carry it out, leading to men's suicide rates to be four times higher than females.

"Depression can even increase the risk of coronary heart disease, and though the risk of contracting the disease itself is the same for men and women, more men die as a result. The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) estimates that about three or four million men show clinical signs of depression. But the number of men who are actually diagnosed and treated is much smaller. Men feel there is a social stigma attached to being depressed, that it is a sign of weakness or lack of discipline" (Spurling, 2005).

Bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, and dysthymic disorder are the three main depressive disorders and should be looked for in men when they are showing symptoms of depression. Men more often mask their depression with some kind of substance abuse, such as alcohol or drugs. Sometimes working very long hours can be a sign of depression as well. Spurling (2005) states that "men with depression tend to be more irritable and angry. Encouragement from friends and family is key to helping men with depression admit they have it, and seek treatment." By hiding from the problems of depression those problems will only get more severe.

Getting help from a physician is the first step because depression can sometimes be caused by medical conditions, medications, or substance abuse itself. Eventually seeing a psychologist or psychiatrist is ideal for those that do not have a physical cause for their symptoms of depression.

Unfortunately we live in a society that puts a stigma on men who feel sadness or depression. It is more accepted for a man to be aggressive or angry, emotions that are seen as more "masculine." Ironically many women complain of being allowed and encouraged to be open with feelings of sadness, but not their feelings of anger. Hopefully we will someday live in a society that does not put such a stigma on the emotions of people based on sex, simply because of how masculine or feminine each emotion is considered to be. We all have the capability to feel every emotion and being a man does not solve as an immunization from feelings of depression. If so, I'm sure most people would prefer to be men, myself included.

For more information on how bipolar disorder is distinguished from major depression (usually by the presence of at least one manic episode), see the Symptoms and Diagnosis section

Resources on preventing suicide, the most tragic outcome of unidentified and untreated affective disorders.

The source of this article was The Bermuda Sun, written there by Grant Spurling. You can access this article at: http://www.bermudasun.bm/archives/2005-07-08/01News12/

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