Depression and Masculinity

Men often deal with negative emotions differently from women. One example is the way men tend to experience depression.

Men tend to express their depressive symptomology by externalizing their problems (e.g., anger, substance dependence, and compulsive overworking) instead of or along with traditional, internalizing expression of depression (e.g., sadness, feeling hopeless, and feeling helpless) (McDermott et al., 2022, p. 1). Masculine gender roles necessitate that men be emotionally stoic and tough while rejecting the expression of traditional internalizing depressive symptoms (e.g., feeling sad or down). In their study, McDermott et al. (2022) hoped to determine whether distinct subgroups of men that are possibly at risk for depression may be identified based on their self-reported degree of internalizing and externalizing depressive symptomology.

Masculine depression is characterized by depressive symptoms aligned with traditional masculine norms (McDermott et al., 2022, p. 2). The key point is that male depression is recognized by externalizing symptoms rather than (or in addition to) internalizing symptoms. The masculine depression framework suggests that the classic signs of depression, such as crying and revealing feelings of hopelessness and helplessness, are not as likely to be experienced or expressed among some men when compared to “gender-congruent” expressions, such as anger, irritability, substance dependence, and overwork. Externalizing depression presentations are believed to develop in men who try to cope with negative affect without straying from traditional masculine norms.

Gender role socialization is a vital process in the opposing risk patterns observed between women and men in the development of internalizing or externalizing psychopathology. Strict adherence to masculinity norms probably reflects a learning history of reinforcement for shows of action, toughness, and independence as an answer to distress and invalidation or poor treatment for displays of vulnerability (McDermott et al., 2022, p. 2). Many researchers have discovered correlational evidence supporting a connection between masculine gender role norms and the masculine experience of depression. Additionally, it has also been found that the positive associations between conformity to masculine norms and internalizing symptomology that men experience are shown on traditional depression-screening instruments.

Not all men are the same. Although many men experience a masculine form of depression, others do not. If you have found it difficult to talk about your emotions, consider reaching out to me at I’m here to help.

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McDermott, R. C., Addis, M., Gazarian, D., Eberhardt, S. T., & Brasil, K. M. (2022). Masculine depression: A person-centric perspective. Psychology of Men & Masculinities. Advance online publication.