“The actual DSM diagnosis of depression doesn’t always fit how men experience depression,” Dr. Fisher said. For men, symptoms may include frustration, agitation and irritability, an increase in dopamine-boosting activities (drinking, drugs, gambling) and isolation.
That was my husband — frustrated, irritable and detached. He went to bed before 7 p.m., claiming exhaustion, though I was the one getting up with our daughter every night. He snapped at the littlest things. He just wanted to be left alone.
I tried to help with pep talks: “She’s a good kid! We’re so lucky!” Then I remembered how, when I was depressed, such cheerleading only made me feel worse, as if I was letting others down with my inability to snap out of it.
So I whisked our daughter off to playgrounds, giving him time to lounge on the couch or obsessively clean, something he’d taken up as a hobby. I encouraged him to go surfing or grab a beer with a friend, but he shrugged off these suggestions.
I tried to initiate conversation, by asking how he felt. He just kept saying, “I’m fine,” a lie familiar to me from my own depression days. Unlike women, men are often socialized to value independence, dominance, stoicism, strength, self-reliance and control over their emotions, and many see weakness as shameful.
“Men will do anything to avoid shame and vulnerability,” said Dan Singley, a psychologist in San Diego who specializes in men’s mental health issues. This, of course, is a challenge to getting help.
While maternal postpartum depression is widely discussed and recognized as a serious health issue, it’s often hard for people to take seriously the idea of a man having similar problems. My husband, for one, found it “ridiculous.”