Managing Feelings — 18 April 2014
The Stigma of Depression for Men

Not only is depression a temporarily debilitating emotional experience for the sufferer, it is also a condition that is more socially accepted for women than men. The stigma associated with the “strong, powerful, competent, hard working and emotionally stoic male“ still plagues our culture today. Thus, men are less likely to identify their symptoms as depression and delay receiving helpful, effective treatments.

Michael Addis, the chairman of the Department of Psychology at Clark University in Massachusetts states, “Our definition of a successful man in this culture does not include being depressed, down or sad. A successful man is always up, positive, and in control of his emotions.

Most adults, at times, feel sad, irritable and disenchanted with their lives. They may feel fatigued, irritable and lose interest in their work, family or hobbies. But when these emotions last longer than a few days, they may signify the presence of depression. Depression is a disease. It’s not caused by personal weakness and is not a character flaw. It is the bi-product of the malfunction of chemicals called neurotransmitters in the brain.

The National Institute of Mental Health lists the signs and symptoms of depression in men as follows: “Different people have different symptoms. Some symptoms of depression include: Feeling sad or ‘empty’, feeling hopeless, irritable, anxious, or angry. Experiencing loss of interest in work, family, or once-pleasurable activities, including sex. Feeling very tired, not being able to concentrate or remember details. Having difficulties in falling asleep, or sleeping too much. Having no appetite or overeating. Having thoughts of suicide or suicide attempts. Having aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems. Feeling unable to meet the responsibilities of work, caring for family, or other important activities.”

Though it is often assumed that more women experience depressive symptoms than men, researchers at Harvard Medical School reported a very similar occurrence: “30.6% of men and 33.3% of women were found to have experienced a depressive episode at some point in their lives.

Though the incidence of depression may be similar for men and women, the style of responding to these symptoms may be different. Women, more commonly, feel no shame in acknowledging their emotional distress and diminished self-esteem and are more prone to seek help while men are more inclined to externalize their distress by anger and hostility and soothe themselves with excessive work, sex, risky behavior and/or substance abuse

Depression is a devastating condition for both men and women alike. Though women attempt suicide more often the CDC reports, “Men in the U.S. are about four times more likely than women to commit suicide.

The currently recommended treatment for depression for both genders is the combination of anti-depressant medication and psychotherapy and the prognosis for relief of symptoms is good.


  • Understand that depression is a disease – not a negative reflection of your manhood.
  • Honor yourself by seeking medical/psychological help as you would for any other malady.
  • Trust that you can get better and feel well again.

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About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

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