Men and Women Express Mental Health Issues Differently: Men don’t seek therapy when it would help them!
I was talking to a fellow mental health professional the other day, and we were discussing socialization and therapy. The topic of why we see more women in therapy then men came up and we joked that it was because men are too busy telling women they are the problem, while ignoring that they might be, so women are socialized by a patriarchal society to believe they are the problem for most things.
From a young age, boys are told that they are to be strong, in charge, not to cry, be independent and keep their emotions and thoughts to themselves. Admitting that you are not any of those is to admit to being a “whimp” and has far-reaching consequences. In America, men are 3.6 times more likely to die by suicide than women. Men associated with being less likely to seek help for mental health struggles have higher suicide risk.
Men need to be encouraged to get the help they need and it starts with their awareness of the unique ways men can experience and express struggles. Men should be encouraged to express their struggles through cognitive behavioral therapy first and others as discovered are needed, without feeling “shamed,” “minimized,” or “guilty” because they are human and vulnerable to life just as women are.
9% of men in the United States report feeling daily feelings of depression or anxiety, and 1/3 of men report having lived through a period of depression in their lifetime. Their depression often goes unidentified due to lack of acknowledging and seeking help, part due to it being different than for women. Men with depression may have the following:
- Anger, irritability and aggression
- Physical symptoms: body aches, pains, digestive problems without a clear cause
- Difficulty focusing
- Engaging in risky behaviors
- Suicidal thoughts
- Abuse of drugs/alcohol/sex
- Abusive behavior
- Lack of happiness/joy/fulfillment
- Laughter comes few and far between minutes of their life if at all
- Stress “
Some addition reasons for men not to seek therapy are:
Social Stigma: shame and being judged for expressing their struggles
Gender Roles: Seeking help is “weak” or “sissy” or “stupid”
Difficulty in expressing emotions: Men may struggle to verbalize feelings and share them, then add ingrained beliefs about them being “men” and should “man-up” and deal with “It” themselves.
Perceptions: Some men dislike the idea of being dependent on a therapist to help them through, or medications to help them function and feel happier while working through their struggles. Besides, they don’t always want to share with a man or woman therapist their “not being perfect” and exposing as well as shining a light on secrets.
Developing a comfortable relationship with a mental health professional is important to ensure that a man’s needs are met.
Working with someone a man can be open with and develop trust with over time is important. One size does not fit all so:
- Interviewing the mental health profession
- Look at their credentials and make sure they have added training to what they received in school – very important
- Get a referral if possible to one that someone else has recommended
- If you have insurance make sure the therapists are qualified in the area you need help
- Online therapist directories allow you to search for mental health professionals by location, education, treatment specialty, experience and type of therapy
Therapy sometimes doesn’t go the way a man wants it to go, due to unrealistic expectations that if one goes, they will quickly get through the issues/problems and they will be fine. That may be the case for some men, but most find that it is a “process” that will help them over time, not an event.
Research (American psychological association) shows that the benefits of therapy and receiving mental health help can be life altering and life changing not to mention have a profound positive impact on a person. Men can find that their relationships, work, and life may improve through treatments focused on their needs.