Straight Talk Advice

Male depression very different than female depression

Oct 14, 2014

Depressed male took risks, ended up in jail

Dear Straight Talk: I got engaged at 22 and we have three beautiful children. I fell down the wrong path and my fiancé said she would always be there for me. But when I received two years in prison, she left me. Since lockup, I'm confused, hurt, dealing with depression and suicide attempts. I get out in July and am afraid of dating and getting hurt again. I read all the help the panel gives others and would appreciate opinions. —Steven, 24, Redding, Calif.

Breele 20, Dana Point, Calif. Ask me a question

As bad as your situation is, you're young with your whole life ahead of you. Two years means you didn't do anything too horrible so I hope those sitting in judgment get over themselves. Everyone makes mistakes, most just don't get caught. It's how you deal with it that matters. You have the opportunity to get your act together and obviously you wrote in because you want to. Be honest about what you need for emotional stability, and follow it. It's okay to ask for help.

Christina 22, Marysville, Calif. Ask me a question

Asking for help is step one. Talk to a counselor, minister, the free depression hotline, 800-826-3632 or the suicide hotline, 800-784-2433. Depression won't magically go away. You need to work on yourself.

Gregg 23, Houston, Texas Ask me a question

I was extremely depressed when my brother died but I didn't recognize it, I just thought I was pissed off and sad. I started smoking weed to feel “consistent” rather than tossed around by the feelings. Soon I had to smoke more, or drink with it, and that degraded into shattering car windows with golf clubs to feel better. I was LUCKY to not go to jail. Girls show depression by crying or isolating. Guys want to hit something or do something risky. Time is needed for most depression. It also helps to see a counselor, have an intense physical workout, avoid crap food, and yell at the walls if you need to. To this day, I stay on top of diet, exercise and sleep — they are KEY to emotional stability. Don't do drugs or alcohol, the depression just comes back stronger AND you have a drug problem! Another secret: Stop caring about those who reject you!

Carmela 16, Davis, Calif. Ask me a question

My depression cure was time, and remembering who loved me. Like most girls, I stopped talking to friends and tried to disappear. Guys, when depressed, tend to be loud and rowdy.

Brie 23, London, England Ask me a question

A support group is essential. Be the best you can be for your kids and yourself, NOT a woman. Once you've figured yourself out, THEN add a woman. I dated a somewhat-abusive guy with lots of demons. Until he faces them, his relationships will be tumultuous and stressful. Your depression will keep showing as violence, low confidence, trust issues, and/or drug abuse.

Dear Steven: I hope the panel was helpful. You need to know that people don't randomly go down a wrong path — or attempt suicide. Both are trauma driven and/or fueled by drug addictions and/or mental disorders. If you haven't had a psych evaluation to rule out bipolar or other personality disorders, get one ASAP, and if you test positive, get treatment ASAP. The other place to look is childhood trauma. Take the 10-question ACE test (ACE means “adverse childhood experience”) and start your healing. See www.acestoohigh.com. Earning back the stability that childhood trauma and/or drugs took away is an ongoing process and there is no better work. To succeed, you will need committment, personal and group therapy, and spiritual faith.

Readers: I hope EVERYONE hears how differently female and male depression look. Females introvert and get help. Males extrovert and get in trouble. Acting-out males need help, not additional trauma.

Editor's Note: The U.S. has the highest rate of adult incarceration in the world at 743 adults per 100,000 (data from 2009, Wikipedia). That's 1-in-100 adults behind bars. And, if you count probation and parole, it jumps up to 1-in-31 people either being on probation, parole or behind bars. To give you some comparison, big bad Russia has only 470 per 100,000 adults behind bars.  According to 2014 data, our prisons hold just under one-quarter of all the world's prisoners. Wow. 

There are 15 times more men than women incarcerated in the U.S. I honestly believe that if we understood male depression more and helped men who were taking risks or being loud, rowdy, violent, and unlawful and found out what was going on, I think we would find huge numbers who would be classified as depressed, simply displaying depression as males do. (We don't want to drug all our males so they act like females, like they do for rowdy kindergarten boys today, right folks?). We NEED our men, we just need to understand them. And if we treated them for depression instead of putting them behind bars we (society) and they (real men) would lead much happier, productive lives.

I don't know Steven and he doesn't share what he got two years for, but Breele is correct that a two-year sentence is the lowest class of felony and isn't anything too serious. But I can vouch for Gregg, who I know personally, and who is an exemplary young man who went through a tough patch that I'm honored he shared with us. I know many young men who were lucky in their acting out and didn't get caught and are now making this country proud. What a setback to say you are a felon, we all know the prejudices we feel when we even hear the word, yet we label our boys felons like handing out pencils.

To you, Steven, I'm so very sorry. In most other countries, you would have worked off your crime not been subjected to the horrors of imprisonment. I hope you can find faith in yourself and folks who have the good sense to take a chance on you when you get out in July.

The waste to all of us, is, well, depressing.  I hope this column makes some small difference in how we perceive male acting-out.

To that end, I invite EVERYONE to take the 10-question ACE test at www.acestoohigh.com. It's very enlightening to score your "adverse childhood experiences". Your childhood trauma as reflected in your ACE score tells more about your mental and physical health outcomes than any other tool. And with the spread of information about ACEs come "trauma-informed practices" that many schools and even some cities are adopting that are treating acting-out males with compassion, finding out what's wrong, instead of instantly punishing, which just adds insult to injury. To read about these programs, peruse the www.acestoohigh.com site. Very hopeful stuff. --Lauren

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  1. By Cindy, age 17, from Carmichael, CA on 10/14/2014

    I’m not sure that female depression is that much different.  My younger sister’s boyfriend dumped her after leading her to believe that he loved her and got her to have sex with him.  Ever since, she’s been extremely depressed.  I see it the most since we share a room.  She was somewhat overweight and thinks that must be the reason so no she barely eats and makes herself throw up when she actually does eat.  It scares me to see how thin she now is when she’s naked.  I really love her and I’m scared that she could be suicidal.  However, she refuses to get help even though I’ve urged her to, so I don’t know what to do.

    Cindy

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    1. By LAUREN, from StraightTalkAdvice.org on 10/15/2014

      Cindy—You need to tell your mom about your sister NOW. Set up a system with your mom, where when your mom hears a certain word or sound it’s her signal to come in the room when your sister is undressed so she’ll see for herself. Then you don’t have to worry about “finking”. Don’t delay, you read the columns, you know what you need to do.

      Regarding the differences in depression style, it’s very different! Very few males starve themselves. In a situation where a male was devastated over a lost love, he would tend to get in a fight, or break car windows, or punch a hole in the wall at school—thus in big LEGAL trouble. Girls tend to introvert and, we hope, get help (they usually do, thanks to siblings like you and their friends). Boys extrovert, do something big, noisy and violent and get in trouble. They do NOT tend to get help for their depression. Make sense? Good. That’s my point in this column. Now, go tell your mom right now!—Love, Lauren

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  2. By N.T., age 17, from Westminster, CA on 10/16/2014

    These symptoms REALLY describe my twin brother.  Even since his girlfriend broke up with him, he’s been extremely depressed and angry and just can’t handle the rejection.  He refers to her as a “no good c***” and a whore but I heard thru the grapevine that she broke up with him because he was putting heavy pressure on her for sex and she didn’t want that kind of relationship and I know her to be a very nice girl.  He takes things out on me because I’m a close convenient target which really hurts because up to now we had always been very close.  Like others I’ve read about in Straight Talk we still have to share a room because our mom’s a single parent who can barely afford a 2 bedroom apartment.  It hadn’t been a problem up to now even though were opposite sexes and got along great and loved each other very much.  Even the “undressing” issue that has been written about so much was never an issue for us.  However, I now feel very uncomfortable sharing a room with him when he has such anger toward females and refers to them with obscene terms all the time.  I’ve stopped undressing in front of him and change in the bathroom or our mom’s room but I’m still uncomfortable sharing a room with him and he still undresses in front of me and sometimes I see him with a boner and he laughs and thinks it’s funny when he sees that I’m embarrassed.  He also masturbates alot.  He does it under the covers so he’s not actually exposing me to it but its obvious what he’s doing.  The worst part is that he now treats me like dirt and I can’t escape him since I’m stuck in the same room with him.  I also strongly suspect that he’s started taking drugs since he’s been acting like he’s on something and is extremely hyper which makes his anger even worse.  I still care about him and just want the brother I grew up with and loved so much back, but I don’t know what to do.

    N.T.

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  3. By Marci, age 16, from Santa Ana, CA on 10/17/2014

    There can be 2 sides to a situation like this and I don’t agree that someone like this automatically deserves sympathy as everyone seems to presume.  I don’t know the specific’s of Steven’s situation so I can’t speak to it, but I would bet that there is more to the story and his wife may have good reasons for leaving him.

    Our stepfather got 6 months in jail due to a probation violation.  He totally blew it as he originally just got probation and no jail time.  Now he’s writing to our mom begging her to take him back when he gets out and says he can’t live without her.  She keeps going back and forth on what she is going to do, but my sister and I DO NOT want him back.  Our mom sometimes works nights and we were scared to death when we were home alone with him as he was nearly always drunk and often was looking at porn.  We were scared to leave our room and only did so when we had to go to the bathroom so bad that there was no choice.  But our room doesn’t have a lock and he would sometimes barge in on us without knocking when he was drunk.  Luckily, he never did it when we were undressed but for all he knew we could have been undressed or even naked so it made us very nervous to even undress in our own room and we had to do it as quick as possible and could never be comfortable and be in our underwear or naked which you should be able to do in your own room.  But based on the comments of Lauren and the Panel, if you just heard his side, you would agree with him that he’s a wonderful person who did something not too bad since he only got 6 months and deserves nothing but sympathy.

    Marci

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    1. By Julie, age 16, from Vacaville, CA on 10/18/2014

      We have a similar situation.  Our mom keeps taking back her boyfriend whose in and out of jail for anything from a month to a year.  He always promises that he’ll change this time and she always believes him and takes him back even though he’s beat her up more than once.  But he always goes back to drinking and doing drugs and gets in trouble again.  He can’t hold down a job even when he’s able to get one which isn’t easy with his record and of course its never his fault when he gets fired which he always does and he ends up sponging off our mom whose a single mom who doesn’t make much anyway.  My sister and I can’t stand to be around him and like Marci just stay in our room when he’s drunk.  He also smokes all the time and fills the apartment with is second hand smoke which we know is harmful.  He also sometimes walks around naked which makes us very, very uncomfortable even though he’s never tried to do anything sexual to us as our mom gives him all he wants.  But if our mom finally got fed up and wouldn’t take him back it sounds like everybody would feel sorry for him since he can’t be so bad since he only got a few months in jail the last time.

      Julie

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  4. By R.C., age 19, from Santa Rosa, CA on 10/19/2014

    I left my boyfriend who I was living with because he was on drugs and was abusing me.  I really had to swallow my pride and move back in with my family who had told me he was no good, but at the time I thought he was just the greatest and wouldn’t listen to them.  My sister who I’ve never gotten along with who thought she finally had her own room wasn’t happy to say the least to have me move back in with her and we’re have more conflicts sharing a room than ever before.  Even so, I think it was worth it to leave him.  But now he’s begging me to take him back and says that he’s depressed and can’t live without may and has implied that he might kill himself if I don’t take him back which obviously lays a real guilt trip on me.  He says that he’s sorry for the “mistakes” he made and promises to change.  Well, I don’t see physical abuse and drug abuse as “mistakes.”  They’re intentional acts, and I don’t think I should let him use threats of suicide to get me to go back to him.  I’m afraid that my sister may be falling into the same trap.  Even though we don’t get along sharing a room, we’re still sisters so we don’t have a problem with nudity in front of each other and I’ve noticed bruises on her body when she’s nude that I strongly suspect came from her boyfriend who I can also see is no good.  So far I haven’t said anything as I doubt she would listen to me or our parents any more than I did.

    R.C.

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