Big Boys Do Cry – and That’s Cool

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For men, recognizing the warning signs of depression can be hard to acknowledge. But ignoring them is worse.

 


Originally published August 9, 2018
Revised June 18, 2020


Heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson. The most decorated Olympian of all time, swimmer Michael Phelps. Four-time NBA All-Star DeMar DeRozan. The list goes on. Baseball Hall-of-Famer Ken Griffey, Jr. Six-time NFL All-Star wide-receiver Brandon Marshall. These are not just great athletes. They are all men who have admitted having experienced depression.

But, acknowledging that you’re suffering with depression is rare among men. So many grew up thinking they had to suck it up — no matter what “it” was. You know, big boys don’t cry. But they do.

And it’s not just athletes. Actors like Brad Pitt, Ryan Reynolds (yep, Deadpool), and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (a proud UM alum) all realized that keeping their depression hidden didn’t do anyone any good. These guys are hoping that their public acknowledgement can help others like you realize that going it alone is about the worst thing you can do.

Psychiatric studies have shown that ignoring or hiding signs of depression can actually contribute to more frequent, longer lasting, and more severe bouts of symptoms.

What does depression feel like?

One of the challenges for men is that they may not recognize the warning signs. You might think depression means feeling sad or gloomy all the time. But not everyone experiences depression the same way.

You may externalize depression:

  • be irritable, hostile, or angry
  • drink too much alcohol
  • work all the time
  • withdraw from friends, family, and colleagues
  • lose interest in activities you typically enjoy

You might experience physical symptoms:

  • headaches
  • backaches
  • stomach pains
  • fatigue
  • trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
  • erectile dysfunction

You may experience the mental / emotional symptoms:

  • loss of sexual desire
  • trouble concentrating
  • seeking perfection from yourself and others
  • feeling hopeless or overwhelmed
  • suicidal thoughts

When The Rock finally acknowledged that he was depressed, he had refused to leave his mother’s apartment and spent his waking hours cleaning it. That’s when he knew something was wrong and sought professional help.

The most important thing to remember is don’t wait to get help.

If you’re not feeling like yourself, or if a close friend, a spouse, or someone else you trust says something like “Are you feeling okay? You seem like something’s wrong” — listen up. Don’t just hope that these feelings will disappear on their own.

“Visions of lying on a therapist’s couch for decades—which can scare people away from seeking help—don’t accurately represent what many functioning individuals with mild to moderate depression may need to get well,” said Firdaus Dhabhar, Ph.D., professor in the departments of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Microbiology and Immunology, and the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, part of the University of Miami Health System.

Ask your doctor about a referral to a psychologist, psychiatrist, or counselor. Getting professional help isn’t a sign of weakness. It can be hard to admit you need help. But, therapy with or without medication can save your life or get it back on track so you can feel like yourself again. “The right kind of help and guidance from a professional you trust and connect with, for a short period of time, may be all you need,” said Dr. Dhabhar.

Call 305-689-2636 for an appointment.


Written by Carlos Harrison and revised by Dana Kantrowitz, contributing writers for UMiami Health News.


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