Men Don’t Have It Easy
I was at dinner at a friend’s recently.
Sat around the bbq, a couple of my men friends were talking about work. They were regaling stories about pressures, extra responsibilities for the same wages, expected to travel, how they had no choice but simultaneously trying to keep their family together.
They were trying to please everyone but they were sinking fast. Both these men commute and, when they were in the country, don’t get home before 9 p.m.
At the weekends they are spending time with their children, attending sports matches and ferrying them around. Neither of them had any downtime.
They looked broken. Was burnout just around the corner?
Pressures on men are increasing. They are expected to work, be part of the children’s’ lives, contribute towards the home and make time for their partners.
In the case of my two men friends, I noticed that one of them had some serious alcohol dependency problems and the other man was rapidly gaining weight.
My heart went out to them because I only had an inkling of how difficult life is for them. At the same time I’m only too aware that they are fighting a culture that does NOT encourage men to speak out.
Depression and anxiety can affect your sex drive.
Here's an article to explain further:
Men Don’t Speak Out
My two friends alluded to their depression but didn’t’ actually say it out loud. The way it came across was through humor e.g.
“Every Monday’s like walking into the shit storm you left behind on Friday except it’s brought its mates.”
The men I do speak to who talk about their depression are in the minority. But, they are passionate and articulate:
My depression is at a level now that I feel . . . lifeless; probably that’s the best way to describe it. I have no energy, feel numb and as if I’m in a dream every day. I hate myself for being like this. I feel a lot o f pain (not physical, well, not always) even with just thinking. It’s all I do. Think about the past . . . I don’t enjoy life. I never have. Happiness is another thing I don’t understand. It’s foreign to me. I feel like an empty shell. No emotion any more. The only feeling is pain. I see no way forward. Mike
I feel so messed up! I feel like I’m trapped in a bubble, I feel so lonely, tearful and don’t want to face anyone. When my family is around I have to act as normal as I can, as I don’t want to put any worries on them. I have to walk out of the room and weep, as I don’t want them worrying. Richard
Research[i] shows us that men are much less likely to seek help for depression than women. Men put it off because they think they are supposed to be in charge of situations, be tough, self-reliant, not feel pain and not look like they have any problems.
Men compare themselves, much more than women, to a gold standard that covets success, control and power. But men’s roles are changing.
With women taking up more of the power play, men are not sure what their new role should look like.
It’s The Mid Life Men Who Struggle The Most
On one end of the scale the young men – up to late 20’s - are taking the cultural shifts in their stride because it’s part of their experience.
On the other, the older generation 65+ are the more strong and silent type who wouldn’t ever express their vulnerability in front of another person.
It’s the 40-59 year olds who are most unhappy according to the Office of National Statistics[ii].
Where do I stand and who are my role models?
Men, more now than ever, are turning to their partners for support. With the changing cultural patterns, work related stress and rates of depression increasing; men are struggling to navigate their way through this new landscape.
Suicide is a particular concern as two thirds of worldwide suicides[iii] are committed by men.
What Are The Mid Life Challenges For Men?
It’s not so much a mid life crisis but more of a mid life challenge.
Things that factor into this age group are:
Sometimes managing more than one set of children due to second or third marriages
Parents getting older and frailer
Friends die leaving them more aware of their own mortality
Fear of failure and not reaching life goals
Anxiety levels rising
Career wobbling – it’s the age to sink or soar
Some men don’t want their friends to see how depressed they are. Not only do they NOT ask for help but they also remove themselves from their social circle.
In recovery from depression it’s very important to open up and talk about what’s going on. This withdrawal doesn’t just make depression worse, because of isolation, it also makes recovery longer.
The challenges make many men of this age group crash and burn. They don’t seek professional help or the counsel of their friends, they think they have no choice but to self medicate with drink, work, pornography, computer games or even having an affair.
What Depression Symptoms In Men Are Different To Women?
The main difference is that men are more likely to recognise and acknowledge physical changes.
They may say that they feel tired rather than say they are depressed. Likewise they might say they are stressed rather than ‘down’ or annoyed rather than ‘low’.
Depression in men is now common with one in eight experiencing depression at some point in their life.
However, there is reluctance in men to seek help and specifically counselling. And when men do seek counselling, it’s usually at crisis point.
So, What Are The Main Depression Symptoms In Men? Here’s A List Of Thirty Signs Of Depression
You're feeling a lot more nervous than you used to
Nothing seems to calm you down
You feel guilty a lot of the time
Generally feel miserable
You feel tired for no obvious reason
And run down
You're leaning on alcohol or drugs
You’ve got unexplained muscle pain
And more headaches than usual
Maybe a churning gut
Can’t sleep properly
A change of appetite
You’ve become less sociable
And you're withdrawing from friends
Lost interest in things you once enjoyed
You feel hopeless
You’re frustrated and don’t know why
You feel restless
And like a failure
Everything seems like an effort
You feel stuck
Negative thoughts are tossing around your head like a washing machine
But you're finding it difficult to make a decision
You have significant weight loss or gain
Not able to concentrate as much
Often feel distracted
Think about doing reckless things
You think others would be better off without you
Do You Identify With At Least 10 Of These Symptoms? Here’s What You Can Do Now.
Men are starting to recognize that the old ‘drink it away’ strategy is changing and the new approach, aka ‘talking about it’, can work.
They are starting to see that opening up and talking about their feelings can lead to a better, happier life according to a Study of Men and Masculinity[iv] by the Psychological Society.
Is Therapy The Answer?
The one thing that sends men to the therapist’s office is when they feel as though they are stuck or losing control of their life. Often, self-soothing with alcohol has moved into a drinking problem. Secondly, it’s often having no control over their anger.
If this is you, and you're nervous about talking to a therapist, it’s much easier once you're there. You don‘t have to say anything you don’t want to and you wont be pinned into a corner.
They are not there to judge you and they want you to feel comfortable so you can feel free to speak on your terms.
If you are unsure about what type of therapist to see, it’s much more important that you have a good rapport. The quality of the therapy can, broadly speaking, be measured by the trust and safety you feel with them.
A good therapist can help you develop a plan for overcoming negative thought patterns and destructive behaviors.
It may be helpful to chat with potential therapists by phone before making an appointment. The one you most feel comfortable with maybe the right one for you.
These articles might be of interest to you:
[i] Men are less likely to seek help than women, with only 1 in 4 men who experience anxiety or depression accessing treatment.
Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2008). National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing: Summary of Results, 2007. Cat. no. (4326.0). Canberra: ABS.
***Please remember I am not a doctor. Please consult your doctor if you have any concerns about your health.***