I have heard the story many times from friends, clients, family members. Many of us were terrified of our fathers. Now while many children have suffered from horrible physical abuse from their fathers -- that's not what I am talking about today. I'm talking about either the verbally abusive and angry father or the terrifyingly silent dad.
These types of fathers are what I call "angry dads". And experts agree that in many families these men are not simply angry because they are jerks -- no they are angry AND depressed, and that is a combination that can be absolutely exhausting and shattering for the fathers who suffer from depression and for the families that live with them.
I have often wondered if my father was depressed when I was a teen. Some liked to call him "negative" or "arrogant". Most people were terrified of my father and not in the way that they felt they needed to duck and cover -- but in a way that they just couldn't "figure him out". They didn't know what to make of him.
But it was safe to say that I wouldn't have described my father as a very "happy" person -- and now that I am older and a wee-bit wiser. I've realized that my father probably suffers from a undiagnosed case of clinical depression. This is why...
1. Men who suffer from depression rarely ask for help
2. Stressors for men are different than in women. Research shows that troubles in a marriage is the #1 reason for depression in married men
3. Men are 3x more likely to commit suicide - or lead very "destructive" lives which leads to killing themselves such as alcohol, drugs, violent behavior, dead-end illegal behavior.
4. Loss of sex drive or lots of sex to make up for feelings of inadequacy
5. Low energy
6. High levels of anxiety
7. Worries about work and finances and how this ties into their self-worth
8. Lost interest in activities or people
9. Changes in appetite
10. Lapses in personal hygiene (showering, shaving, exercising, hair)
Do any of these sound familiar? Now I'm not saying that every bad dad is clinically depressed -- but I am saying that if you had a father who was in your life but was "checked out" and angry much of that life. You may have a father who suffers from depression. So what do you do?
Well it's not likely that your father is going to run to the nearest mental health counselor. Statistics prove that men rather turn to drugs and alcohol. It's also typical for a man to complain about the physical symptoms of his depression such as the dreaded lower back ache, the headaches, fatigue, etc.
So it's up to the person closest to him to FIRST educate him. So that he can see how he is not just feeling bad -- but that there is more of a physical and psychological connection than he may be aware of.
SECOND is to support him in his effort to find the type of the help which is most comfortable for him. At first he may want to start with exercise, trying yoga or meditation, avoiding alcohol and drugs, and staying active.
FINALLY - get your dad to see his primary doctor and talk to him about all his symptoms as well as what's going on in his life. His primary doctor may be able to talk to him on a level that he will listen to and undersand -- and hopefully take the next step towards treatment.
Lisa Angelettie MSW, "GirlShrink" is a psychotherapist, author, and certified Life Coach. Her site GirlShrink.com is the #1 "Advice & Counseling" site on the web. For more information on how to beat your depression naturally - without drugs - visit her site: NaturallyDepressionFree.com