Academic journal article International Journal of Men's Health

Clinical and Personality Features of Depressed College Males: An Exploratory Investigation

Academic journal article International Journal of Men's Health

Clinical and Personality Features of Depressed College Males: An Exploratory Investigation

Article excerpt

Published studies on men and depression do not typically involve a comparison group. This article presents the first exploratory investigation to compare the clinical and personality features of a sample of depressed men to a non-clinical sample. Analyses revealed the clinical group reported lower mood, higher levels of alexithymia, greater levels of rumination, and lower levels of distraction than the non-clinical group. However, the clinical group and non-clinical group endorsed similar levels of adherence to masculine norms. No significant relationship was round between anger and depression. Men of the non-clinical group reported higher levels of problem-solving behaviors than men of the clinical group. Research implications, clinical implications, and limitations are discussed.

Keywords: males, masculinity, depression

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Research on depression in men is warranted given that men with depression are often underdiagnosed and undertreated (Cochran & Rabinowitz, 2000). This is the first study to compare a clinical sample of men diagnosed with depression with men drawn from a non-clinical sample. The study compares men on several variables hypothesized by researchers to relate to depression and other mood disorders in men. These variables include alexithymia, adherence to male gender role norms, responses to depression, and anger expression.

Alexithymia refers to difficulty identifying and describing feelings and distinguishing between feelings and bodily sensations (Taylor, 1984). Research shows that greater levels of alexithymia are endorsed by individuals with depression (Duddu, Isaac, & Chaturvedi, 2003). Alexithymia has been shown to be more prevalent in men (Honkalampi, Hintikka, Tanskanen, Lehtonen, & Viinamaki, 2000).

Researchers have proposed that greater conformity to masculine norms may lead to depression in men (Mahalik, Talmadge, Locke, & Scott, 2005). However, research on masculine norms and depression has focused on gender role conflict rather than conformity to masculine norms. These studies typically used non-clinical samples of college men without a comparison group of depressed men (Blazina & Watkins, 1996; Good & Mintz, 1990) or included a general sample of counseling center clients (Good et al., 1995; Good, Robertson, Fitzgerald, Stevens, & Bartels, 1996). Interestingly, Good, Heppner, DeBord, and Fischer (2004) found that men's appraisal of their problem solving ability, not their level of masculine role conflict, predicted psychological distress among a general sample of college males.

Nolen-Hoeksema (1991) identified two common responses to depression in individuals: ruminative responses, which involve dwelling on symptoms without attempting to improve symptoms, and distracting responses, which involve turning away from depressive symptoms. Individuals who ruminate in response to depression tend to experience longer periods of depression. However, studies have not compared responses to depression between clinical and non-clinical samples in men (Butler & Nolen-Hoeksema, 1994).

Research supports connections between anger and depression. Freud and Abraham provided the early psychoanalytical conceptualizations of depression by showing relations between anger and depression. Abraham noted that individuals who experience depression tend to internalize unconscious hostility and direct anger inwardly rather than toward the lost object (Cochran & Rabinowitz, 2000). More recently, Troisi and D'Argenio (2004) empirically showed the connection between one psychodynamic model, attachment theory, and anger in men with clinically significant depressive symptoms. Results showed higher levels of trait anger among men with insecure attachment.

Clay, Anderson, and Dixon (1993) found increases in inward-directed anger related to increases in depressed mood among a non-clinical sample of college students. …

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