Historically, boys have been taught early in life to be “strong” by not sharing their emotions. As boys grow into men, these expectations remain and emotions continue to be “bottled up inside” potentially causing anxiety, depression, and even suicide if not managed properly. It’s seemingly impossible to measure the impact of this behavior on any person. But many men go forward to suffer in silence.
“In some cultures, emotional vulnerability can be seen as a sign of weakness for men,” explained Britany Alexander, MD, a psychiatrist at Kaiser Permanente in Southern California. “There can be societal or self-imposed standards of stoicism; a need to feel and appear invincible and not show emotions. Such unrealistic standards can, unfortunately, lead to serious mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, and irritability. Other signs of depression can include insomnia or oversleeping, appetite changes, fatigue, and loss of interest in things that would normally bring joy such as hobbies, time with family, and even sexual intimacy.”
“Unless promptly treated, this can lead to thoughts of suicide,” Dr. Alexander said. Also, instead of seeking treatment for depression, some men turn to drugs or alcohol to try to cope with their emotional symptoms.
“Once diagnosed, depression among men can be treated successfully with a personalized combination of lifestyle modifications, medications, mindfulness meditation, and psychotherapy.” Britany Alexander, MD
Most experts believe that a combination of inherited genetic factors and stressful life events such as death, divorce, work stress, financial issues, and medical problems may contribute to depression. Because men may avoid addressing their feelings, they may not talk about their depression, anxiety, or thoughts of suicide. The role of friends and family in encouraging men with depression to visit a doctor or mental health professional for an evaluation is critically important, Dr. Alexander stressed.
“Once diagnosed, depression among men can be treated successfully with a personalized combination of lifestyle modifications, medications, mindfulness meditation, and psychotherapy,” Dr. Alexander said. “The key is to not ignore the symptoms and seek help when necessary.”
Learn more about Kaiser Permanente’s mental health and addiction care at kp.org/mentalhealth.