Do men and women experience depression differently? Yes, says psychologist Terrence Real, who wrote a bestseller nearly 20 years ago: I Don’t Want to Talk About It: Overcoming the Secret Legacy of Male Depression.
One reason to understand depression, in how it manifests in women and men, is because this common disorder can have a profound effect on marriage.
For instance, your husband may be sitting on the couch watching television incessantly. He doesn’t communicate and is irritable. You can’t count on him to take care of the household or family and find that you have to do everything to pick up the slack.
Does that sound like the basis of a happy relationship? Not when the other spouse (you) ends up feeling neglected, anxious, angry, and on the edge of burnout – which are common reactions in couples dealing with depression.
But what if the constant neglect isn’t deliberate? Instead, it’s a symptom of a chronic depression. Getting treatment is something that could help your husband’s mental health and, consequently, your marriage.
Of course, we’ve come a long way from telling our sons that boys don’t cry, but admitting vulnerability is still easier for women than men. Psychologists say that this is why depression symptoms can manifest differently for a man. He isn’t depressed; he’s just irritable and yells a lot. He isn’t depressed; he just can’t sleep or has constant stomachaches and backaches.
However, don’t give up or shy away from talking about depression with your husband if you think he might be depressed. In I Don’t Want to Talk about It, author Real encourages wives to insist on mental health check-ups for their spouses who are showing signs of depression.
These are common signs of depression: Prolonged sadness, isolation, lack of pleasure in once enjoyable activities, trouble sleeping, a sense of worthlessness, changes in eating habits, fatigue and thoughts of suicide.
For men, these symptoms may be pronounced: Becoming more withdrawn, irritability, hostility, and aggressiveness. Some psychologists include other signs such as behavior like reckless driving, self-sabotage at work, and abusive, controlling behavior.
Thankfully, getting help for mental disorders doesn’t carry the stigma it did many years ago. Talk therapy, medication, and self-care can help in finding relief from depression. It’s important to remember that depression doesn’t only affect the individual. Depression affects relationships and families, too.
At the Jeanne Coleman law office, we have worked as divorce lawyers for more than 25 years. Our goal is for our clients to be able to start new lives after divorce from a place of wholeness. For a free 20-minute consultation, call (813) 253-2820.