Why are many men reluctant to seek treatment for conditions like depression and addiction? While there are many reasons for this, one of the primary ones is that men often just don’t realize that they have a problem. And even when they do, they don’t fully realize that the longer they postpone seeking help, the more severe the problem becomes.
One primary reason why men may not realize the extent of their problem is that they “self-medicate” with readily available substances like alcohol. Unfortunately, alcohol is so effective at numbing out emotional pain and creating the illusion of fun and normalcy, that it leads to addiction problems like alcoholism.
Alcoholism may appear to be seen as a legitimate solution to hide unpleasant feelings of any kind because it seems to be endorsed by popular culture. What’s more, addiction to alcohol can start at an early age. In Texas, for example, drinking alcohol may start even before the legal age limit. According to the Greenhouse Treatment Center, 58% of junior and senior high school students had tried alcohol. One study claims that drinking is ingrained in Texan culture because adults permit underage drinking parties on their property and beer is often sold at theme parks and ball games. Alcohol is seen as a way to have fun.
Why Men Avoid Seeking Help
Although “self-medication,” usually through alcohol or some other method like abuse of prescription drugs is effective in numbing out, it’s not the only reason men are reluctant to seek help.
Here are some 7 reasons men may not seek help:
1. They don’t understand how psychotherapy works.
In a culture addicted to instant gratification, psychotherapy often goes underappreciated. It’s often not recognized as a legitimate solution to some of the health issues most men will experience in their lives.
If you’re upset, have a drink to change your mood. If you have a headache, take a pain relieving medication. If you have chronic pain that an off-the-shelf solution won’t help, see a doctor, who will give you something stronger to make the pain go away. However, recurring emotional pain is different. It takes time and effort to get to the cause.
2. They feel that there is a stigma attached to visiting a psychotherapist.
While someone is fine telling others about their visit to a doctor or dentist, they feel embarrassed telling someone that they are seeing a psychotherapist. While physical disorders are seen as acceptable, admitting a mental disorder is often associated with a feeling of shame.
They are afraid of being labeled as “disturbed,“ “off their rocker” or even “not the sharpest knife in the drawer.”
There is often the belief that it’s better to “man up” rather than admit a weakness in character and talk to someone about something as touchy-feely or effeminate as feeling depressed.
Those who do go are often surprised to learn that depression is not due to a weak character, but due to psychobiology and traumatic experiences in the past. What’s more, there are many effective treatments that can make it easy to mitigate or eliminate the depression and build a meaningful life.
3. They often don’t go early enough when treatment can be most effective.
Like catching a serious illness before it gets worse, taking care of emotional pain before it gets worse makes if far easier to provide effective treatments.
Unfortunately, with an addiction or depression (as well as most other types of mental disorder), people wait until their condition precipitates a personal crisis like a pending divorce or getting fired from a job. While an effective treatment is still possible, it may take longer. The best time to seek help is when the issue is mild or moderate.
4. They may not know how to get started.
Since therapy is seldom a topic discussed among family and friends, it may seem like a strange land. Often people become aware that they need help when a primary care physician recommends therapy.
5. They may be discouraged by family and friends.
Well-meaning family and friends may offer bad, ignorant advice about the need for therapy. They may talk about how someone is just “going through a phase” and that they “will just get over it.” In their attempt to offer comfort, they minimize the need for therapy, likening it to a passing illness like a cold or flu. Top-of-mind solutions like relaxation from stress and worry, exercising more, socializing more, or eating better are offered as quick and easy solutions.
6. They may procrastinate.
After a long hard day at work, it’s much easier to postpone the need to go and talk to someone to rehash problems. Weekends, too, are not convenient because there are chores to be done, as well as the opportunity to unwind from the stresses of the week. Since it takes time, energy, and commitment to research a therapist, visit them, and go through a course of regular therapeutic sessions, it’s much easier to procrastinate into the indefinite future.
7. They are afraid they can’t afford it.
Since therapy can be expensive, and insurance coverage sketchy, many men find an apparently legitimate reason not to go. However, they never consider the possibility that many therapists offer a sliding scale and that many community mental health centers may provide therapy at no cost or a nominal fee.
Surprising Benefits of Therapy
Men who do have the courage to go for therapy are often amazed at how well it can work for alleviating depression or putting an end to an addiction. Once men push through the door of doubt and confusion, they find a world of possibility open up for them to change their life for the better.