Just as our society often expects girls to be feminine, it expects boys to be masculine. From a very young age, boys are taught that showing emotions is something to be avoided.
The problem with that attitude is that young boys whose emotions are waved off often grow into men who hide their emotions to a degree that's unhealthy. Could your man be one of them?
Here are seven signs he might be.
Is he suddenly sleeping much more than usual? Or is he having trouble falling or staying asleep?
A pronounced change in sleep is also a warning sign of stress and depression. When a man feels anxious or overburdened, he may sleep to get away from his thoughts – or lie awake worrying about his problems.
The human stress response hijacks the brain, making it nearly impossible to think of anything except the source of our stress. A man who seems absent-minded or has a hard time paying attention to important things may be carrying negative emotions.
Anybody can be distracted some of the time, but a persistent pattern of forgetfulness and lack of attention is a sign there's a problem.
When stress runs high, patience tends to run low. For some men, emotional distress can manifest itself as anger. They spend so much time hiding whatever it is that's upsetting them that it spills out into other areas of their lives.
If you notice that the man in your life is crankier than usual or behaving in an angry or aggressive manner, the anger might be a coping mechanism for an underlying emotional problem that needs to be addressed.
Alcohol has a numbing effect on the emotions. In fact, emotional numbing is a primary cause of alcoholism. People drink to mute fears and anxieties.
If you notice a big uptick in the frequency and volume of your partner's drinking, it could be an indicator that he's struggling emotionally. If he's afraid to talk about his feelings, drowning them might seem like the next best option.
Indecision might not seem to be a sign of emotional overload, but it can be. When strong emotions take over, it can be difficult to think clearly, evaluate options and make decisions.
Indecision on its own might not mean that a man needs help, but if it's combined with one of the other signs on this list, then it might be time to ask him what's going on and have him seek appropriate treatment.
For many men, emotional distress and erectile dysfunction go hand-in-hand. While there's a tendency to think of a man's sexual arousal as being simpler than a woman's, there's still a strong link between a man's emotional health and sexual desire and performance.
It's natural for a man's libido to fluctuate at times. But if your man suddenly has no interest in sex – or is struggling with erectile dysfunction – then it could be because he's upset about something and not talking about it.
The most serious sign that a man is emotionally overloaded is if he talks about hurting or killing himself. Men are nearly four times as likely as women to die by suicide, and it's important not to dismiss such talk as a joke or exaggeration.
Talking about suicide can be a scary thing for both partners. It might be tempting to avoid the topic – and your man might wave you away if you bring it up. However, you should take such talk seriously. People who take their own lives often talk about it beforehand.
If you suspect that your man is contemplating suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255 or visit their website by clicking here. If he's not willing to call, you can still call to talk to someone about what your next steps should be.
The most important thing you can do if you suspect your man is carrying a secret emotional burden is to let him know that you love him and you're willing to help. He may feel isolated and helpless, but your love and support – along with some help from a trained professional – can help him process his emotions and get his life back on track.