Depression is characterized as a mood disorder that generally leaves a person feeling “down in the dumps.” This can include sadness, worry, helplessness, worthlessness, guilt, and others. On top of experiencing depressed emotions, people with depression may have develop sleeping problems, changes in appetite/ weight, anhedonia, and thoughts of suicide. All of this should not be new news, most people experience depression at some point in their life, and our society likes to think we have a pretty good handle on knowing what depression is and looks like. However, we live in a society that openly accepts depression in women more so than it does men. The classic portrait of a person with depression paints of picture of a woman crying. Women are known to be more likely to acknowledge their depression and have it treated. This could be through the use of things like therapy, antidepressants, or even learning yoga. So where does this leave men in the picture? Often men to not display or acknowledge the typical emotions associated with depression. Depression in men is not the classical illustration of a person crying out for help, it manifests different symptoms such as anger, substance abuse, stress, overworking, and reckless behavior. This is discussed in the blog post Depression in men: A Dad’s Story of Male Postpartum Depression. He discusses his experience with postpartum depression, and the shame he felt because of it. Culturally speaking, postpartum depression is known a “girl thing” – not something that the father is supposed to experience. However, with more research we are finding out that a lot more men have depression than ever thought before, and part of that is due to the social image that has been created around depression. As far as seeking treatment goes for these men, how is one supposed to be treated if he cannot recognize he is suffering from depression? I think it would be beneficial to the management of depression in men and women to restructure our cultural image of depression. If men were more readily able to see their depression/ postpartum depression and acknowledge it, this would lead to better outcomes for families. Research has shown that fathers who are less depressed are better fathers and their children have better life outcomes. Further, I think understanding male depression could benefit aspects of treatment. Personally, I think believing and healing go hand in hand. That is because I know I am a lot more likely to feel better if I think something will make me feel better (e.g. going on a bike ride, calling my mom, trying new food. etc). And on the flip side if I think any one of those things will make me feel worse, it probably will. This same example was displayed in the film Placebo: Cracking the Code. A women thought she was receiving an antidepressant in a trial, but in reality she was getting the placebo. The result? Cured of her depression. The mind and the culture we live in are powerful aspects of our lives, and can have real effects on our health. In the case of male depression, I think our cultural structure of masculinity has influenced the manifestation of depression in men to appear more masculine. Our culture has a problem with vulnerable men, so instead of appearing vulnerable in their depression they are more likely to be withdrawn and angry. That is why belief is key to treatment, if men fail to believe they are depressed how is one supposed to treat it? This is why we should be putting effort into understanding how the experience of illness can be different between males and females. If we put in this effort maybe more men will be able to believe they can get better, and then actually feel better.
Postpartum Men. Accessed July 23, 2014. http://www.postpartummen.com/index.html.
Stone, Katherine. Postpartum Progress. Accessed July 23, 2014. http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2012/04/16/when-dad-has-postpartum-depression/.
Tartakovsky, Margarita. PsychCentral. Accessed July 23, 2014. http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2012/04/16/when-dad-has-postpartum-depression/.
Wikipedia. Accessed July 23, 2014. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Depression_(mood).