More needs to be done to understand the growing problem of male depression; that’s according to researchers at Leeds Beckett University who have carried out a study into the issue which has been published in the British Journal of Guidance and Counselling.
Initially it would appear that there are fewer cases of male depression than female, but on examination it turns out that this is due to it not being recognised or reported.
Some depressed men experience significant difficulties not only in disclosing but also identifying their depression. Furthermore, symptoms that men experience when depressed are not necessarily typical symptoms and therefore can sometimes go unrecognised by doctors – some of whom use recognised symptoms of depression based on expressions of depression in women.
However, men can report atypical symptoms such as irritability, alcohol and substance abuse, difficulty exercising self-control, somatic symptoms (physical symptoms that suggest illness but cannot be explained) and an inability to feel pleasure in normally pleasurable activities.
Another issue with fully tackling depression in men, is that some are socialised into masculinity ideals that prize stoicism and emotional restraint, meaning men try to deal with it themselves. By self-managing their depression, men place themselves, their dependents and people who care for them under unwarranted emotional duress while not benefiting from available specialist support.
Explaining the aim of the study, Professor Brendan Gough, Director of Research in the School of Social Sciences at Leeds Beckett University, said, ‘This research is aimed at reaching new understandings that could contribute to the improvement of diagnosis and health promotion initiatives that target depressed men.
‘It is imperative for all of us who work in the area of mental health to help sever the vicious cycle of events and to help eradicate common misconceptions about male depression and men’s help-seeking.
‘Potentially inadequate understandings of the possible manifestations of depression in men disadvantages depressed men in all aspects of their lives. Research needs to improve our understanding of more effective ways in which men can be helped to address depression.’
Chrysostomos Athanasiadis, a Leeds Beckett PhD student and lead author of the report, added, ‘Action is required to change public attitudes that may affect depressed men’s decisions to seek help for their depression. We need to proliferate the message that depression can and does affect anyone, including men of any age, ethnic background, educational level and socioeconomic status.
‘Finally, vigilance in clinical practice is advised in order to appropriately identify behaviour such as anger, substance dependency, risky behaviours or working long hours as signs of depression.’
Professor Gough is a critical social psychologist and qualitative researcher interested in the research areas of men and masculinities. He has published many papers on gender identities and relations, mostly in the context of health, lifestyles, and well-being. He teaches qualitative research methods to MSc Psychology students and supervises student projects at BSc and MSc level.