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Twenty years of experience treating men and their families has convinced psychotherapist Terrence Real that depression is a silent epidemic in men; that men hide their condition from family, friends, and themselves to avoid the stigma of depression's unmanliness Problems that we think of as typically male; difficulty with intimacy, workaholism, alcoholism, abusive behavior, and rageare really attempts to escape depression And these escape attempts only hurt the people men love and pass their condition on to their childrenThis ground breaking book is the pathway out of darkness that these men and their families seek Real reveals how men can unearth their pain, heal themselves, restore relationships, and break the legacy of abuse He mixes penetrating analysis with compelling tales of his patients and even his ownexperiences with depression as the son of a violent, depressed father and the father of two young sons

10 thoughts on “I Don't Want to Talk About It: Overcoming the Secret Legacy of Male Depression

  1. Michael Britt Michael Britt says:

    There needs to be a 6th star option for this book. This is by far the most important and impactful book I've read in recent memory. This is a subject that doesn't get talked about, and that many feel like they can't talk about, so that's why it's so important. So many men going through life carrying and passing on their burdens of shame and depressions, some not realizing it, and some not meaning to. We all do it. Because we can't talk about it. Or at least we're made to feel like we can't talk about it. Man up they say. Stop being a sissy/gay/a p***y they say. Even at a young age boys don't cry, only girls do. I don't think we realize what an impact saying something as simple as boys don't cry can have on a child. That leads us to internalizing and holding on to all of that depression and sadness. Which either manifests as outright depression, anger, rage, or other emotions that you wouldn't think would have anything to do with internalized depression. He gives us some amazing insights into some of his past patients. Many of whom are domestic abusers, sex addicts, work addicts, drug addicts, alcoholics, etc. The shocking thing is just how many of these men have underlying trauma from their childhood that they felt they couldn't ever address. So they buried it deep down and eventually forgot about it. But it ended up manifesting, more often than not, as what had been done to them. It becomes even more apparent that the old phrases hurt people hurt people and violence begets violence begets violence is more true than we think. These are subjects that desperately need to be discussed so we can heal those who are hurting people, or boys who may grow up to be perpetrators of the violence that is bestowed upon them that they never asked to burden.

  2. Richard Richard says:

    About half-way through. Subtitle could be Masculinity in the Simon Family Tradition-- I can picture generations of us reading this and saying, How the hell did he find this out about me? I've never told anyone... One or two might then look at the title and do a Homeric DOH! But forget about them-- I'm all over these pages. Less so now, by degrees, but there's still so much I haven't sat with, and didn't have the words to name, so I'm still going... I'll be back once I've finished (the book, not the process).

    Meantime, can't help thinking of the stock situational irony that those who need this book most will never hear of it, much less read it. If you know one of those guys, press a copy into his hands.

  3. Emily Emily says:

    Interesting analysis of how depression manifests itself differently in men than the classic symptoms generally thought of. Especially good discussion of how violence, workaholism, and depression are passed from parents to children, particularly sons.

    As a mother of boys, I also appreciated the sections on society's expectations of masculinity and femininity and how reinforcing those stereotypes can do damage, teaching boys that they can't express their emotions.

    The descriptions are therapy session with the composite patients were touching, and personal enough to draw you in, but almost made it seem too easy. I'm sure more work went into the therapy sessions than it seemed.

    There really wasn't any discussion of depression in men that isn't due to some sort of abuse or neglect as a child. If there's no major childhood trauma to work through with your therapist, then what?

    For more book reviews, visit my blog, Build Enough Bookshelves.

  4. Kevin Orth Kevin Orth says:

    One of the best books on the topic of depression. Men and women are equal - and not the same. In some ways, we experience ourselves differently and society has different pressures and expectations. Any man who has experienced depression, anyone who loves a man who has experienced depression would be well served by reading this book.

  5. Jake Jake says:

    As happens with lots of college students, there came that point where I needed to talk to someone. It wasn’t just that I was in over my head, it was that I didn’t care and didn’t plan on getting better. On my second try, I found a therapist who was a good fit for me. She had a different background and a different perspective. In addition to being great to talk to, she pointed me towards some helpful literature. Easily the most beneficial thing she had me read was this book, I Don’t Want To Talk About it: Overcoming the Secret Legacy of Male Depression.

    It’s not so much that men suffer something women don’t, or more of it. It’s that the book zeros in on men. Mr. Real comes at the issue understanding personally what it means to be a man, for better and worse, in modern society. He writes with empathy and with expertise. And he isn’t blindly optimistic. He shares examples of depression sufferers who don’t get better too. But the prevailing message is one of practical hope. What I took away from reading this book is that it’s not about some frantic and futile quest for bliss. It’s about achieving a stable temperment and realistic perspective, and then bravely struggling on with this thing called life.

    I’m grateful for the book, the author, and the therapist who recommended it to me. It helped.

  6. Josh Czinger Josh Czinger says:

    This was the first book I've read on this particular topic, and it was a bit of a pail of cold water in that it was shocking and refreshing. The author draws extensively from his own personal experiences with depression as well as the stories of the patients he's worked with. This creates a cross section of examples of overt depression that he then connects back to the covert depression that is harder to identify. He identifies a few methods and tools that can be used to bring the causes to light, thus allowing for them to be addressed. His methods are interesting and at times shocking. The best thing about this book is that it does not sugar coat anything for the reader, but presents things in a stark yet caring manner.

    My favorite fact from the book is that the average child gets just 11 minutes of attention from their father per day, but watches an average of 28 hours of television per week.

  7. Kristen Atherton Kristen Atherton says:

    Literally everyone needs to read this book. You won’t regret it.

  8. Ed McKeogh Ed McKeogh says:

    (1) Thank you, Mr. Real, for THIS. AMAZING! BOOK.

    (2) For the better part of my life, I've felt out of step with social expectations and not understood why. After reading this book, I get it. I finally get it. I feel as though I've been wandering in the wilderness for a long, long time, when I suddenly find myself standing before an information-rich, emotionally wrenching though inspiring and hopeful You Are Here sign. It's almost laughably easy to trace where I've come from, and it's heartening to know there are course corrections available to me that will lead to a healthier, more robust life.

    (3) Lest it seem as though I'm attributing magical powers to this book, let me assure you that it's my unbridled enthusiasm talking. Realistically, some aspects of the book, now 15 years old, may seem like a retread of now-familiar material to new readers. And it's certainly contrived in some places; the stories Real shares are composites, deliberately meant to evoke a particular emotional response. For the sake of focus, a number of factors that contribute to a person's maturation process are not addressed in these pages. And some readers may find the autobiographical elements distracting.

    But just as Brene' Brown's work, which focuses on women, yields rewarding information about the human condition, so too does Real's work. (In fact, it was during Dr. Brown's podcast that she suggested Mr. Real's work for her male readers.) Real challenges commonly held beliefs about men and masculinity in an engaging way and reveals that certain stereotypical male behaviors--many of which are not only approved of but also praised, encouraged and validated--are addictions that deflect attention away from deep emotional wounds that have been inflicted on men down through multiple generations. His stress on the fact that depression manifests differently between the sexes mirrors Dr. Brown's assertions about gender-specific experiences of shame. And Real provides a useful and descriptive language for talking about these issues, especially useful now that the cultural value and role of men are undergoing rapid and dramatic changes as a result of the ongoing economic crisis.

    If I could give one book to everyone I know this year, I would unhesitatingly choose this book. A richer understanding of men can only benefit us all.

  9. Koen Crolla Koen Crolla says:

    Whenever anyone complains about the lack of rigour and the prevalence of magical thinking in psychology, psychologists and other non-scientists are quick to accuse them of not knowing anything about the field and getting all of their information from pop-culture caricatures. It's interesting, then that psychologists keep writing books that conform exactly to those alleged caricatures. Real's characterisation of the field, the problems he sees with it regarding male depression, his proposed solutions, and his descriptions of his therapy sessions, are all spot-on examples of exactly the things critics tend to complain about. Even after all this time, the field is still a joke,† even though there is no reason it has to be.

    To be clear, I'm not disputing that therapy has a positive effect for a lot of people; it clearly does. As do homeopathy and other forms of ``alternative medicine'', and Alcoholics Anonymous and other religious cults, for roughly the same reasons. I just get so tired of people holding up those modest successes as evidence of anything other than the fact that the human mind creates and exacerbates a lot of its own problems, and is pretty easily manipulated.

    I Don't Want to Talk About It isn't strictly a book about psychology as a science, though, except to the extent that it appropriates some plausible-sounding jargon and results from other, better fields. Real's point is that depression manifests itself differently in men than it does in women because they're socialised differently because patriarchy and toxic masculinity, and that people need to stop seeing depression as a mainly female disease. Reasonable enough points, though I should say that I've only heard the claim that depression is a female disease twice in my life, and both times it was from a psychologist complaining about it. Maybe that's because this book genuinely changed attitudes, or maybe I just know too many decent people, or maybe psychologists are just more sexist than the average population; who knows.
    Either way, as books by, for, and about psychologists go, this one is probably less harmful than most. It's just a shame it's still cloaked in so much bullshit.


    † With the caveat that the book came out in 1997, which is now eighteen years ago for some reason. My more recent experiences with defenders of the field haven't indicated any fundamental changes in that regard, though.

  10. Elsa Elsa says:

    One of most important books I have read in order to understand, empathize and forgive myself and others. Essential reading.