Ways relationships cope with male depression


Researchers from University of British Columbia have identified three major patterns with heterosexual couples when the man is depressed. Men typically refrain from admitting their depression or seeking help for it. But it’s difficult to keep it from the woman you share a home with. The paper, published in the Social Science & Medicine journal, tells how gender roles shift and strain when the man is depressed.

“Overall, our study underscores how women play a key role in helping their male partners manage their depression,” say John Oliffe, an associate professor in the School of Nursing whose work it is to study masculinities and men’s health with a focus on depression. “Our findings suggest that gender relations are pivotal in how health decisions are made in families and for that reason, it’s important to understand couple dynamic if we want to have effective interventions.”

Three patterns emerged: “trading places,” “business as usual” and “edgy tensions.” Trading places describes the relationship where the men and women switch their traditional roles. The woman becomes the decision-maker and breadwinner while the man may stay at home and become the primary caretaker. This may happen out of job displacement or an inability to maintain a job because of health. “Here, women partners also broke with feminine ideals in how they provided partner support by employing tough love strategies for self-protection and a means of prompting the men’s self-management of their depression.”

For business as usual, the couples maintain normal roles and act as though the depression is irrelevant or doesn’t exist. Women continue to nurture. Men continue to work.

Edgy tensions describes the case of the dysfunctional relationship. Each has a gender role that does not match the other’s. Men generally resisted medical treatment and opted instead for self-medicating with drugs and alcohol. The women professed ambivalence and stated a lack of interest in supporting a man who was volatile and unpredictable.

Source: Social Science & Medicine, MedicalNewsToday


The information provided on the PsyWeb.com is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between a patient/site visitor and his/her health professional. This information is solely for informational and educational purposes. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Neither the owners or employees of PsyWeb.com nor the author(s) of site content take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading this site. Always speak with your primary health care provider before engaging in any form of self treatment. Please see our Legal Statement for further information.

Sign up for our newsletter to receive mental health Information & Inspiration