Why is Emotional Healing So Much More Difficult For Men?

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Eight ways that men respond differently to their emotional health

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Most men would rather go the bar than go for therapy. In fact, they would rather go anywhere rather than go for counseling or therapy. Men and women are different, so what’s the big deal that guys avoid counseling?

Plenty it turns out. In fact, our lives are at stake. Men suffer silently from depression, they struggle with addiction and they complete acts of suicide far more often than women.

Most men would rather go the bar than go for therapy. In fact, they would rather go anywhere rather than go for counseling or therapy. Men and women are different, so what’s the big deal that guys avoid counseling?

The stats tell us that women are twice as likely as men to attend therapy, even though men face the same kind of issues with mental illness, abuse, and addiction. Men are more likely to complete an act of suicide than women and when they do manage to go, 90% of men report that they have benefitted from their experience with a counselor.

Healing is different for men. Our bodies and our minds are different than women, so it makes sense that we heal differently. The differences are not easily explained, but here are the facts:

It makes sense that when a man faces trauma, stress, pain and emotional setbacks, he will respond differently than a woman will respond.

Eight ways that men respond differently than women to their emotional health:

  1. Men will try to fix things first, rather than talking.
  2. Men will try to understand and be rational, rather than checking in with themselves. When guys say that they are just trying to be ‘rational,’ that can be a way of avoiding their own feelings or the feelings of their partner.
  3. Men will drink more.
  4. Men may consider suicide and if they do attempt it, they will choose more lethal means.
  5. Men will stuff, bury and avoid.
  6. Men will feel depressed, but it will be harder to detect because men are taught to be “real men” and ignore their feelings. It may come out as frustration, anger, controlling behavior, drinking more, shame, and creating conflicts with others.
  7. Men will respond differently to medication than women will. Body chemistry will often determine whether a treatment is as effective as it can be. 
  8. Men face stigma in attending counseling or therapy and may be more apt to choose coaching or mentoring, which may not address their underlying needs.

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If you know a man who needs help, here is what you can do to support a guy who needs help (This list is adapted from the 10 Strategies to Help Men Heal Emotionally. To access this excellent guide, click here):

a. Don’t judge him, but instead, listen to him.

b. Point out what he is already doing right. Build his confidence that he is already on track.

c. Avoid asking him how he feels. Talk instead about the story of what is happening. Stories can be powerful and telling our story is the beginning of healing.

d. Give him space and time to respond.

e. Give him options and remind him that he has choices.

f. Have him detail the risks of each decision or no decision.

h. Give him the practical reasons for addressing his needs (and his emotions).

Displaced anger, sorrow, or fear can be disastrous to his health (i.e. high blood pressure, heart attacks, etc.) and relationships (conflict, tension, and disconnection). Learning to deal effectively with his emotions, on the other hand, can put him in a position to make good decisions, proactively communicate his needs, and be more approachable and aware of what’s going on around him. It may also foster improved relationships and solving complex problems. Ken Druck

i. Let him know that he is unique and that he can express himself in ways that he feels comfortable with. Some men like to use their hands and build things, other men might like to write and journal, and other men might find a creative outlet like painting or poetry.

The bar really is a bad place for therapy to happen. A hangover is usually not a good way to try and change your life. What the bar does teach us is that men need other men, they just will express it differently.

j. Listen for shame and address it, gently. Men feel shame and may have a difficult time expressing their emotions directly. Their failures, emotions, and setbacks often create a load of shame that can be difficult to overcome. Name the shame, because something named is easier to understand than a nebulous feeling.

k. Remember that there is a time to hold things together and a time to fall apart. Falling apart can feel scary as hell, but it can be done in a healthy way by practicing good coping. It may be time to upgrade your coping strategies if you continue to resort to unhealthy approaches.

The bar really is a bad place for therapy to happen. A hangover is usually not a good way to try and change your life. What the bar does teach us is that men need other men, they just will express it differently.

Please, share this with a man in your life.

If you enjoyed this article, you will want to read Breathe into the Bag: Anxiety and the Gender Gap.

I write articles about wellness, leadership, parenting and personal growth. My hope is to deliver the best content I can to inspire, to inform and to entertain. Sign up for my blog if you want to receive the latest and best of my writing. If you like what I have to say, please share my work with your friends.

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Keep it Real

Previously published on The Good Men Project

Photos by ZS and Ted Goldring

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