Depression in Teen Boys: A Real Problem

by gabriel_heuvelink on February 19, 2014 - 12:23am

When we hear stories or read articles about teen depression, there is often a heavy emphasis put on girls. This emphasis is often due to self-esteem issues teen girls have when comparing themselves to impossibly skinny supermodels that embody our society’s image of an attractive woman. Furthermore, teen girls are often more expressive, not only vocally but also with their body language about their depression. I choose to focus more on what makes teen boys depressed because I feel that it is important to take both genders in account when studying an illness. In order to better understand the subject, I read several articles which I will summarize in this post.

The first article I read was “Dying of Depression” by Bernadine Healey, published in the U.S News & World Report on November 10th 2003. The author begins by exemplifying several young students who committed suicide and illustrating that no one knew the true reason why these individuals decided to end their life. She goes on to explain that during our teenage years the amygdala, the part of our brain she calls “the gut response” part rules our thinking. The amygdala mediates emotions like fear, anxiety and anger, this could lead to the rash decisions and intense emotions teenagers experience. Although anti-depressants have contributed to the lowering of overall suicide rates, Healey follows by saying that the Food and Drug Administration revealed that they might not prevent, but actually contribute to suicidal thoughts in teenagers less than eighteen years of age. In the second to last paragraph, Healey brings out the most interesting statistics, out of 4,294 suicides in the 10-24 age group, 3662 of them were boys. She states that boys experience their illness differently, with more aggression and anger, which leads us to not identify the illness as a depression. (Article link here)

The second article “Depression and drug use risk rises as teen boys struggle with body image” by Elizabeth Renter and published on allvoices.com on January 28th 2014 delves further into why teen boys can be as unhappy with their bodies as girls are. The author starts off by saying that studies about women’s body image are “a dime a dozen” but studies in men’s body image are lacking. Renter introduces a research project that tracked 5527 boys aged 12-18 for 13 years, starting in 1999. The study found that most of the boys misjudged their own weight as being over or under-weight when most of them were actually average. Furthermore, 2% of them admitted to using steroids, supplements or hormones to increase their muscle mass. Even worse, 31% reported binging, purging, or both, with binging being more popular in order to gain weight, as just under 10% were “highly concerned” with how muscular they were. These unhealthy habits of binging, purging and steroids are used by young men in order to change their body image. This unhappiness with their body image is an indicator of depression. Renter finishes the article by saying that we are constantly bombarded with images of perfection, and that these images are hazardous to anyone, regardless of the gender. (Article link here)

The final article was more of a personal piece, “Teaching our sons what it really means to ‘be a man’” by Celine Cooper, published by the Montreal Gazette on February 9th 2014 consists of the author recounting an experience she had with her family while eating out after a day of tobogganing at Jarry Park. Cooper tells her 7-year-old boy that he looks like a teenager and he responds by striking a pose that she defines as “trying to look tough, removed, cool and uninterested”. Those are the characteristics that her son thinks constitutes a teenage boy. Cooper then says that any young boy will rage, scream and break things when he is angry. However, when the anger subsides, the young boy will become very emotional, seeking comforting arms and a shoulder to cry on. As boys grow up, they are constantly repeated three deadly words that Cooper says is the reason for their unemotional teenage years, “be a man”. This sentence, and others like it, is what ultimately leads boys to constantly hide their emotions and feelings as to not seem too feminine. The consequences of this attitude are that boys are more likely to commit violent crimes, drop out of school, binge drink and take risks while driving. (Article link here)

If read separately, these articles tell three different stories. However, if pieced together, the three articles support each other in their claims. The first article’s main idea, the prevalence of male teen suicide caused by depression is supported by the second article’s claim that anxiety caused by body image can lead to depression. The third article’s lesson supports the two previous articles by displaying that men are less likely to show that they are depressed because showing emotion is still considered something very feminine in today’s society. This show of emotion could be seen as a weakness and reduce a teen boy’s manliness, therefore he hides this weakness.

 I was particularly interested in this subject because I grew up with four older sisters, so I have a different perspective on these issues than other teenage boys. Anybody who wishes to pursue this topic could find articles in the Journal of Mental Health. This journal publishes 6 issues a year and explores in depth the mental issues that plague our society. The Merriam-Webster defines psychology as “the science or study of the mind and behaviour” anyone wishing to really get down to the root of this and similar problems could consider a career in psychology. 

Comments

I found this interesting in that it goes against the normal idea of depression only being in girls. I think that these articles would have been interesting to read because they make a point in that depression affects everyone, not just girls. Boys are always told to “be a man” or “don’t act like a girl” which makes showing emotion seem feminine when in fact, everyone has emotions. Anyone can be depressed. We shouldn’t make depression a feminine illness. It is an illness and everyone displays their illness differently. If someone is depressed, they shouldn’t be afraid to get help. You addressed this issue very well.

This topic is extremely interesting and definitely under-reported. As you stated, the main focus is on girls on the depression they experience throughout their lives, but depression in boys is not acknowledged to the same degree. I agree with the idea that depression can go undiagnosed in males because they express it through anger and aggression rather than tears and sadness as many girls do. It would be fascinating to attach the articles you read to how boys are socialized as children, as I believe that the struggles they face with their body image and their “manliness” is a direct result of striving to achieve standards set by society. When boys fall short of these socially constructed requirements it absolutely affects their mental and emotional health, often resulting in depression expressed through anger.
This is a great post, and your argument could be taken even further if you explored the socialization process for boys including how they are socialized into sports and what happens to those who lack interest and/or athletic ability.

This post thoroughly evaluates and explores the secrets behind the smiling faces of many teen boys.In our society, depression is something that is associated with females and due to depression being related to females, males find it hard to expose their true feelings.The three deadly words "be a man", that was distinct in your journal is said almost everywhere, especially on young children and children undergoing training to make them more "manly". However this change their way of thinking making teens more aggressive and violent. In some families the younger males tend to suffer from depression because it seems they are set on a pedestal where their emotions cannot control.
Depression among teens is a point to which i agree on because it is a problem that affects all persons not just females. This is a great post in bringing into the limelight the depression that males tend to have.

I really loved your post for the main reason that depression in boys is very often over looked. Before I read your post, I never really thought of the idea that “being a man” and not showing emotion would consequently lead to hiding signs of depression. I believe that many people in society seem to forget they men have feelings too. Society always looks down upon men that show their feelings. I strongly think that showing feelings is the sign of a man; in that the man is able to not fall into peer pressure and is strong enough to find help, especially for depression, if needed.

Being a sister of three brothers, I feel as if society does need to talk about depression and body-image issues in men more. The oldest of my brothers is constantly telling my youngest brother to not cry if he is sad because that isn't a sign of a man. I think that if society could figure out a way to publicize the very real issue of male depression just as much as female depression, then many lives could be saved.

I found this article very interesting and I'm happy I stumbled upon it because I agree that this issue is overlooked. At one point in the article that the statistic was given "out of 4,294 suicides in the 10-24 age group, 3662 of them were boys." I was reminded of something I learned in my high school health class, that boys are more likely to follow through with a suicide attempt whereas girls are more likely to attempt it several times. I completely agree with what you said about girls being more vocal and expressive about their depression, and it's scary to think that most girls will attempt suicide and most likely get help, but boys will usually have less warning signs and commit to it. Many people focus on the impact of social media on females but not many people comment on the fact that males are always portrayed as big, muscular and other things that society perceives as "manly." I myself am guilty of comparing guys to the "manly" stereotype everyone thinks they should be in. My only sibling is my older brother and I can probably count the amount of times I've seen him cry on one hand, however the amount of times he's seen me upset is countless. Boys associate growing up and being a man with learning how to disguise their emotion and I have never thought of the affect it must have on them. I really enjoyed your article and it gave me a completely new perspective on this situation.

This is a great post. You don't see to many articles on depression in male teens. This also hit close to my heart because I too am a male teen with self-image problems. I'm very judgmental about myself. This can range from what my body looks like to even what I wear. This constant judging of myself usually ends up in a very dark hatred for myself, just because I'm afraid people look at me differently solely based on what I look like. This issue is very real and needs to be looked upon more. Especially in males because, just like you said, we tend to hide our emotions until they build up and burst resulting in a much worse situation than just crying or talking to someone.

This post interested me in particular because I am 18, male, and have dealt with depression.

This post looks at articles addressing an issue many people fail even to acknowledge; A majority of issues have a gender bias. So many things are attributed either to men or to women that there is hardly any issue that falls outside those bounds. Emotional expression is feminine. Being well-muscled is masculine. Society attempts to make every issue binary, with only two possible answers. The problem is, personalities aren't binary. People are a spectrum, not just a pair of contrasting colors.

When a man shows his depression, he is often ridiculed, and rarely believed. Men are told to toughen up, to be brave and strong and detached. Men are people, just like women are people. We all feel the same emotions, we all have sadness. Somehow, the only acceptable emotion for men to display is anger, in our society. Men can't cry, but they can punch a wall and break things. Many men do these things, not because its who they are, but because crying is so unacceptable as a man. This is fear, self-loathing, angst and grief being forced into a rage, because rage is a safe emotion. People may ridicule when a man cries, but never when he rages. I think its about time society recognized the full spectrum of the human condition, and allowed people to simply be who they are. Why must any personality be "other"? No two people are exactly the same, every individual is other from you.

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