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   with Amy Newshore M.Ed, CMHC

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Let’s Talk Relationships: It’s OK for men to feel depressed

Amy Newshore


Published: 10/13/2023 1:52:47 PM
Modified: 10/13/2023 1:51:40 PM

Let’s take a look at the important topic of depression in men. For those readers who don’t subscribe to the traditional labels of male/female, if any of the information in this column resonates with you, please apply it in the way that makes the most sense for your understanding of your gender identity.

Many of us might be surprised to know that, although women are nearly twice as likely to be diagnosed with depression as men, depression is quite common in men as well. The signs and symptoms often look quite different, however. While depression can range from mild and occasional to chronic and severe, men often experience depression in ways that are overlooked and misunderstood.

For a variety of reasons, it is generally easier for women to identify that they are feeling depressed when experiencing the hallmarks of depression such as an enduring sense of sadness, fatigue, pervasive negative thinking, not getting pleasure from usual enjoyable activities, and difficulty with sleep.

Men certainly can experience all of the above. However, they have been culturally indoctrinated into believing that these are not signs of depression for them. Often men assume that depression happens more in women, and therefore don’t recognize it in themselves.

Many men are not comfortable showing vulnerable feelings such as sadness, fear, tenderness, and hurt to others, or even to themselves, since they are often raised to believe that having these feelings is a sign of weakness. As a result, they often suppress these feelings and end up finding themselves numb, shut down or greatly fatigued, which may indicate male depression.

Instead of facing their depression, many men may find themselves escaping into behaviors that can become excessive and therefore self-defeating, such as drinking, using cannabis, working, online activities, sex, or playing video games. These distractions and stress relievers, when overly relied upon to manage one’s negative moods, can end up becoming addictions — which lead to another level of problems.

In addition, many men with depression may exhibit irritability, controlling behaviors toward others, having a short fuse, and risky behaviors such as reckless driving. Although they may provide some immediate, short-term relief from emotional distress, these behaviors only serve to push the depression down deeper, out of conscious awareness.

Women are more likely to grow up learning to be relational — meaning that they tend to turn toward trusted others for support and comfort. They are also more likely to seek — and accept — help through psychotherapy and professionally recommended antidepressant medication when needed.

Males are often raised to believe that they need to be independent and handle emotional difficulties alone. This strong emphasis on self-reliance, paired with the cultural stigma surrounding mental health conditions, set up the conditions for men to believe it is “unmanly” to admit to feeling depressed and to seek help for it.

Due to the pressure, beliefs and expectations placed on males, starting in boyhood, to be strong, independent, and avoid showing vulnerable feelings, men often have difficulty with emotional intimacy in relationships.

In my work with couples, I often see underlying depression in male partners/spouses resulting from all of these factors. When the depression is explored and worked with, unhealthy patterns involving distance and disconnection in the couple can shift into opportunities for authenticity and closeness.

Many men worldwide are reevaluating cultural norms of what it means to be a man. There are books, articles, podcasts and men’s groups around the globe that support such exploration.

Locally, psychotherapist Patrick Rathbun facilitates a men’s group in western Massachusetts called “Men Helping Men,” where men develop more capacity for emotional connection with others, through both sharing openly and learning about what the experience of manhood is like for other men.

He explains that the group “is a place to explore other feelings that men may have besides the socially ‘acceptable’ ones such as angry, happy and horny.” He believes that avoiding conversations about problems or emotions only increases feelings of isolation and loneliness that can ultimately lead to depressive symptoms.

The men who attend his group describe feeling more connected to both themselves and others, which has transformed their lives and relationships. Many of the participants find comfort in finding that they were not alone in feeling disconnected from their own emotional lives. As one can imagine, rich and productive conversations occur in these groups of men, who have the chance to reflect on and question their male conditioning.

If you are a man reading this, I invite you to contemplate the following questions: Has caring about and tending to your own daily emotional life been an option for you? Or do you believe you need to “man up” and “power through” difficult times on your own?

If you answered “yes” to the last question, you might consider whether you are being affected by some depression that you weren’t aware of.

As a man, if you think depression has possibly made its way into your life, the courage to seek help is actually a sign of strength. Any human might experience depression from time to time, and it’s not unmanly to seek out relief and help.


Taking small steps in this direction can mean just slowing down to notice your feelings, or opening up in a conversation with a friend, partner, spouse, etc. You can consider joining a men’s group or finding a therapist to assist you on your journey.

I am cheering you on to dedicate yourself to growing to become your full extraordinary, competent, and emotional self. In doing so, you are helping to change our culture to be better for everyone.  

Resources: For psychotherapy, go to Psychology Today at https:www.psychologytoday.com or contact local mental health agencies. Men Helping Men is an eight-week Zoom series starting Wednesday, Nov. 11, 7:30 - 9 p.m. Contact Patrick Rathbun at [email protected].

Amy Newshore is a couples therapist/coach who earned her master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling at Antioch New England University and went on to train in the Developmental Model for Couples Therapy along with nonviolent communication, which serve as the foundation of her work as a relationship coach. For more information visit her website at www.coachingbyamy.com.


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