The Angry…I Mean, Depressed Male: Do You Know Him?

Over the last several months when I have gathered for lunch with a few of my friends, we joke about the idea of me writing a follow up book to The Anxious Christian called The Angry Christian. Don’t worry, that is not on my to do list, but our conversation hints at an issue that can be seen in our Christian culture.

If you haven’t noticed, there seems to be a lot of angry Christians out there. And more often than not, they are men.

But what I’m really wondering is if there isn’t just a bunch of depressed Christian men out there…and really,  men in general.

In the book Unmasking Male Depression, Archibald Hart lists off a few statistics (pp. 3):

  • 80 percent of all suicides in the United States are men
  • The male suicide rate at midlife is three times higher than at other times; for men over 65, it is seven times higher
  • 20 million American men will experience depression sometime in their life
  • 60-80 percent of depressed adults never get professional help, and men are at the top of the list here
  • It can take up to ten years and exposure to at least three mental health professionals to properly diagnose this disorder
  • 80-90 percent of men seeking treatment can get relief from their symptoms

This book was published in 2001, so I wonder what the statistics are today. Certainly higher I would imagine.

More and more men are coming into my office these days because they complain that they just don’t seem to know what is wrong with them. But when a man finds himself in my office I want to communicate to them that it is a huge step of courage on their part. Many men do not reach out for help, so if they take the step to call and actually come in, then I know something is seriously wrong. Hart writes (pp. 8):

“Being a man can be hazardous to your health, especially when you have to maintain your masculine identity at all costs. Generally, men are less willing to admit to depression because they believe, irrationally, that being depressed is a sign of weakness. They are also less likely to want to discuss the topic, for fear, I suppose, that they may discover something about themselves that they don’t like–that they are less manly than they think they are. Depression, the subliminal male self-believes, is a ‘feminine’ problem, so therefore, I cannot be depressed. It’s only logical, so don’t even suggest the idea.”

So maybe underneath all that anger is a man who really needs some help. Maybe you are that man. If you are, then one of the biggest acts of courage that you can do is to reach out for help. You are not alone.

And if you know a male who is struggling with depression, maybe there are some ways that you can come alongside of him and encourage him get the help he needs.

So what are some signs of male depression, since it so often looks different than female depression. Again, I turn to Archibald Hart for some good insight (pp. 29):

  • Blames others for his depression
  • Acts on his inner turmoil
  • Needs to maintain control at all costs
  • Overly hostile, irritable
  • Attacks when hurt
  • Tries to fix the depression by problem solving
  • Turns to sports, TV, sex, alcohol
  • Feels ashamed by depression
  • Becomes compulsive, time keeper
  • Terrified to confront weakness
  • Tries to maintain strong male image
  • Tries to act away his depression
  • Turns to alcoholism and other addictions

This last summer my father and step-mom spent a month on a small lake in Minnesota. When my dad returned home he commented on how each day he could sit outside and hear all around the lake conversations of men who were sitting in their fishing boats all day fishing. My dad wondered if that type of male bonding wasn’t a form of therapy for them. Whether it was fishing, hunting, or playing sports together, maybe that is a way and a place for men to emotionally connect and process that anger, anxiety, depression and other emotions they were experiencing.

But we are living in a society that has become increasingly fractured and fast paced and men might be losing the ability to connect. And technology that men so often love may actually create a disconnection and with that disconnection comes a sense of loneliness that can foster depression.

I don’t have all the answers, but I do know this. For every angry man I come across in life, I now ask myself, “Is he depressed?”

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Rhett Smith
I'm a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Associate (MDiv, MSMFT, LMFT-A) and pastor to youth and families. I write about the relationships between psychology, theology and technology.