MEN SUFFER IN SILENCE
Zachary Isoma, PsyD
The American Psychological Association has made a lot of headlines recently over the publication of the Guidelines for Psychological Practice with Men and Boys. If you do a quick Internet search, you can find all of the Op Ed articles arguing both for and against the spirit of the document. Too many men suffer in silence.
Many men learn that being a “real man” means showing little emotion, even in the face of overwhelming stress. This isn’t necessarily always a bad thing. For example, acting cool, calm, and collected are highly desirable features in first responders and ER personnel. Sometimes, however, trying too hard to “act like a man” can be devastating, especially when you are struggling with something like anxiety, depression, or trauma.
Hundreds of studieshave shown that men suffer more when they try too hard to suppress their difficult emotions for fear of appearing less manly. Men who hide their unpleasant emotions often turn to ineffective coping strategies, such as alcohol, isolation, and anger outbursts. These strategies usually only work temporarily, if at all, and tend to make the emotional turmoil worse. This leads to a vicious cycle – when men feel worse, they go back to using the same unhelpful strategies, which make them feel bad again.
Breaking this vicious cycle means learning new coping strategies. But that can be hard to do when you feel like you can’t talk about it with anyone. To make matters worse, psychologists and other mental health professionals aren’t great at identifying mental health issues in men. That’s because most of us ask our clients to describe their thoughts and feelings. This can be a hard task for men who were taught to be silent about their emotions.
So, if you are a man, or a loved one of a man, here are some signs he might be struggling with some painful stuff:
Irritability and short temper (e.g., Getting snappy and angry outbursts)
Apathy (e.g., He doesn’t seem interested in things he usually loves)
Problems sleeping (e.g., Mind racing or won’t turn off)
Difficulties focusing (e.g., Takes longer to get a task done)
Social withdraw and isolation (e.g., Keeping to himself more)
Body aches (e.g., Headaches, stomachaches, tightness of chest, muscle tension)
Substance use (e.g., Drinking more to forget)
Zachary Isoma, Psy.D. is a clinical psychologist and owner of Harbor Psychology, which serves Tampa Bay. He specializes in practicing acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) with men struggling with anxiety and trauma. To learn more about Dr. Zack, visit http://www.harborpsychology.com