Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Men and Depression: The Internal Conflict

“Depression is rage spread thin” - George Santayana

Depression affects 6 million men every year in America alone.  Reasons for depression that men have reported include: trouble in an important relationship, unemployment, pregnancy or childbirth, separation/divorce, retirement, and work stress.

There is a lot of pressure upon men in our society to maintain a sense of “masculinity” and being a “real man”. Sometimes this means that when a man feels desperate, lonely or depressed – he will hide his feelings and keep things bottled up. Because of this, men are three times more likely to commit suicide than women (statistic from the Royal College of Psychiatrists).

There is a common misconception that women are the more body conscious, the more emotional and the more soulful of the sexes – but this is not true. A man may look into the mirror and hate his appearance, doubting himself for not being muscular enough, for being short, not having much chest hair etc. Similarly, men feel the same emotional range as women and can also suffer from depression or anxiety. They just tend to keep it much more hidden.

If you think you know a man who is suffering with depression, be sensitive about it. He may not want to admit to himself or you that he is out of his depth. Men traditionally see themselves as having a lot of responsibility; earn the wage, be the protector, be man of the house. And when they start to struggle they see it as a failure. A crisis of masculinity, if you like.

Things you need to know and look for concerning Male Depression:

·         Coping Mechanisms – Male coping mechanisms differ a lot from female coping strategies. A man might throw himself into an activity, focussing a lot on work or sport to avoid dealing with his problems or distract himself. Also, the man in question might resort to impulsive strategies such as alcohol or drugs to cope with the feelings they are experiencing.

·         Downplaying signs or symptoms – Men are much more likely to ignore or justify the feelings they are experiencing than females.

·         Reluctance to discuss things – Men probably wont want to discuss they feelings with anyone, let alone a mental health professional. It’s better to reach out to your man in a caring, casual way when encouraging to seek help, e.g. “It’s probably nothing darling, but it might be worth just popping to see Dr Smith in case he has any suggestions” than “You are depressed and I’m taking you to see a Psychiatrist on Monday!”.

·         Emotions – Men are likely to feel anger, violence or frustration rather than sadness when they are depressed.

·         Physical vs Emotional – Males are likely to report feelings of physical pain such as headaches, backaches, dizziness, chest and joint pain rather than emotional discomfort.

If you think that your partner, son, brother, father or male friend is suffering from depression, try to encourage them to seek help from a Doctor or Psychotherapist without pressuring them or making a big “fuss” about it. The Royal College of Psychiatrists offers helpful information here:


Tuesday, 4 December 2012

From Angry to Assertive in 10 Steps

Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned." Buddha

It’s National Anger Awareness week this week- an opportunity for us to increase our understanding of and get more savvy with ways of managing our anger.  In my experience as a Therapist, Anger is one of the most misunderstood emotions; either one to be feared or revered- allowing a gain or loss of control over situations. 

Due to faulty conditioning as children and living in a culture of suppression, rather than expression of feelings, anger can often become a toxic rather than empowering emotion.  We characterize it with the person that loses control at the wheel, the man who beats his wife- it is bad to have anger we say as it can do so much harm.  I always say to my clients that every emotion is a valid one and anger can be more positive than most if channeled in the right way.

For example, if none of us felt any anger, would we ever fight injustice or stand up and be counted?  I doubt it.  The problems come when we choose to repress our feelings and allow them to fester until they transform into something else that can do harm.  The solution? Quite simply, learn to be assertive and say it like it is! 

Being assertive or congruent with your feelings may feel foreign to you at the moment.  Though, it can be learned, like any skill and you may be assertive in some situations more than others.  Think back to times at work or in your personal life when you exhibited more assertive behaviour, what was the difference?  Perhaps there is a certain context such as with your partner where you struggle with being assertive. To begin with, try these steps for learning new ways of changing your communication:

1.    Create some space around the argument before mentally scripting what you need to say using positive language: “I want to clear the air between us and discuss this..”

2.    Use 1st Person Language and own your point of view- “I feel…”

3.    Get out of the Blame/Shame game: Remember, you have choices as to how you feel, no one can make you angry!

4.    Be specific on what triggered your anger and the degree of it- slightly annoyed- rage?

5.    Acknowledge your part in the situation- own responsibility for anything you did- remember this is a strength, not a weakness.

6.    At the same time, avoid self put-downs or criticisms.  Backing down from an argument in order to please only gets you into the passive role.

7.    Get out of Mind reading what the other person is thinking or feeling.  You need to have evidence based on fact not assumptions!

8.    Focus on the Behaviour, not the person.  i.e. “That was a selfish thing that you did.” rather than “You’re a selfish/angry person.”  

9.    Offer a positive for changing the behaviour- i.e. “We will be able to feel more able to communicate in future and get our needs met.”  

10. Finally, always use Assertive rather than passive or aggressive language: “I feel”, “I would like”, “In my opinion..” 

Remember, assertiveness also encompasses your voice tonality, body language and posture- this is supposed to be 55% of how we communicate so it is key to how others receive your communication, not just the words.

If you feel anger is something that is controlling your life, take a look at the beating anger website or consider speaking to a Therapist in confidence