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Feature Story


When a man is under pressure or depressed, the psychological cracks can damage from the inside out.

by Liss Mariano, M.D.

JUNE 2012

What happens when a man experiences a bone-deep sadness, a grey cloud of depression that doesn’t seem to go away? Women are allowed to cry—because of a bad break-up, frustration, or a mushy commercial—but when a man cries, reactions vary. A common response would be, “Ano ba iyan, bakla?” So, how can men deal with these situations?

Almost-daily psychological burden

In today’s world, the term “depressed” is beginning to be used often in everyday banter. “Depressed ako ngayon,” or “na-depress siya, kasi hindi sila natuloy sa date niya kagabi,” are common statements one might overhear. What is the difference between plain sadness and clinical depression?

Clinical depression is more than just “feeling down”—it’s a serious illness which affects all aspects of one’s daily life, including one’s physical health. The World Health Organization estimates that by the year 2020, clinical depression will rank first in the world’s top causes for disability and death, outnumbering cardiac diseases, cancer or stroke.

While depression is best diagnosed by a professional, one can have an idea of whether he has depression by comparing his symptoms against criteria. While everyone might experience some of these symptoms from time to time, a person with depression is burdened by them nearly every day. For a person to be diagnosed with depression, he must meet five out of the nine criteria for at least two weeks:

o depressed mood most of the day

o loss of interest in most activities

o motor inactivity or agitation

o fatigue

o suicidal thoughts

o significant weight loss or weight gain

o difficulty in sleeping or unusual increase in sleeping hours

o feelings of worthlessness

o poor concentration

Depression is a medical condition which has a biological basis, just like poor eyesight or heart problems. Current research has revealed that depression is largely due to neurotransmitter or chemical imbalances in the brain. Specifically, depression is due to an abnormally low level of serotonin or “the happy chemical.”

How men handle depression

While men are only half as likely to suffer from depression than women, this condition often goes unrecognized, leading to more severe, lethal outcomes. This includes higher rates of suicide.

Studies show that men are at greater risk of having undiagnosed depression, which could be due to several factors. First, men are less likely to be in touch with their feelings. They often deny their inner sadness or fail to recognize it as something that needs attention. Psychological symptoms such as feeling lonely or hopeless are less likely to manifest in men, and instead take the form of physical signs such as chronic headaches. This misleads medical practitioners who treat based on physical symptoms alone and may overlook depression as a possible cause.

Second, men are less likely to seek professional psychological help due to societal conditioning. In many cultures, men are not expected to suffer from psychological illnesses because these are considered unmanly. From childhood, men are taught to hide their feelings, because “boys don’t cry.” And while women derive much of their emotional support from loved ones, men often steer away from “heavy,” emotional topics whenever they get together, choosing instead to talk about work or sports. While gender-diverse talks benefit women’s psychological health significantly, they fail to do the same for men.

Lastly, despite suspecting or being aware of a depressive state, men are less likely to accept treatment. For many, having a psychological illness is a sign of weakness. Men may worry about the stigma of depression and how it would affect their reputation or career. This leads them to forego seeking and accepting help, even to the point of ending their own lives instead.

If you’re concerned that a loved one may be suffering from depression, it’s best to approach him directly about problems that he may have. Because seeking help is difficult for men, it may take strong encouragement from significant or influential people in their lives to push them to seek professional treatment.

Find out what forms of treatment can help a man in psychological need. Get your copy of the June issue of HealthToday magazine in bookstores or newsstands today.

Men don't cry

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