No matter how hard we try to make all aspects of life equal, there are clear differences between those who identify as male and those who identify as female–not just individual differences but collective ones, based on some biological factors but mostly on societal perceptions. These differences are notable in many areas, including substance abuse and mental health.
- The National Institute on Drug Abuse indicates:
- Women are more likely to have anxiety disorders, while men have more antisocial personality disorders.
- Women often have more frequent panic attacks, while men tend to experience greater substance abuse problems.
- Specifically to substance abuse, women might develop a marijuana use disorder more quickly, but men will experience it more severely. Women are often less likely to abuse prescription pain medications compared to men.
- The Pew Charitable Trusts shares collective data that notes:
- Men “are more likely to engage in illicit drug use and to begin using alcohol or drugs at a younger age.”
- Men are twice as likely to suffer from substance dependence than women.
- Men also have a much greater risk of opioid overdose, drinking to excess, and suicide.
- The American Journal of Men’s Health points out that:
- Men often withhold or deny physical and mental health conditions due to ideals of hegemonic masculinity—the concept of the “dominant man”—and self-salience, which is how an individual relates to others in society.
- While statistics indicate women are twice as likely as men to have depression, part of this finding could be due in part to men’s lack of ability to acknowledge and report symptoms; or medical professionals not assessing symptoms and equating them to depression and other mental health conditions.
- “Social location” contributes greatly to a lack of knowledge as to the true depth of males struggling with mental health.
To help men accept treatment for substance abuse or process addictions, it’s critical to acknowledge these and other gender-related factors that complicate the road to wellness.
Handling Societal Expectations of Manhood
Men of all cultures face challenges in the current climate. One challenge frequently in the headlines is toxic masculinity. This skewed and repressive characteristic is representative of all the worst stereotypes of being a man: aggressive, non-emotional, hypersexual, and other characteristics. Another challenge is hypermasculinity. This sociological term is often associated with military service and other areas of life with higher percentages of men vs. women. It, too, exaggerates certain traits such as violence, callous behavior toward women, emotions as a form of weakness, the pursuit of thrill-seeking activities to demonstrate manliness, and other aspects.
Both toxic masculinity and hypermasculinity contribute greatly to making it more difficult for men to seek help with substance use disorder, mental health issues, or compulsive addictive disorders such as gambling, sexual promiscuity, or gaming. The fear or shame some men feel, as well as inhibition due to being judged as “less than a man” because they can’t handle their problems and need professional help, are some of the discriminatory barriers to effective treatment.
But these archetypes put men in danger. As one example, a report from CNN indicates that PTSD and suicide in the armed forces are at their highest rates in over a decade. Statistics from Mindwise Innovations show that six out of 10 men “experience trauma at least once in their lives…related to accidents, physical assault, combat, disaster, or as a witness to death or injury.” And while one in 10 men have anxiety or depression, “less than half sought treatment.” Often these mental health conditions are co-occurring disorders to substance abuse—which often makes them worse.
Fellowship and Awareness Break the Cycle
Too often, many men feel trapped by their addictions. If they’ve not experienced cognitive behavioral therapy, talk therapy, or group therapy sessions, they might not know the root causes of their behaviors. So, they suffer alone, a single man against the world.
In 1939, two men—Dr. Bob S. and Bill W.—recognized they could help one another stay sober with regular, informal meetings that allowed them to talk about addiction and recovery in safe, respectful settings. That was the start of Alcoholics Anonymous. In 1994, Jack and Lois Trimpey’s work with Rational Recovery led to the spinoff SMART Recovery, which stresses the value of people examining behaviors, beliefs, emotions, and motives to change their actions. In 1997, author and publisher Martin Nicolaus founded LifeRing Secular Recovery, a group support alternative for people who focus on personal recovery plans and the “sober self,” rather than the “addict self.”
These are just a few addiction recovery resources which demonstrate how well men can lead others to wellness, and how powerful it is to share strengths and intentions.
In Arizona, some other men’s groups help provide an additional pillar of support, such as:
- The ManKind Project’s New Warrior Training Adventure
- AZ M.A.L.E.s (Men as Learners and Elders) Spirituality
If you need help, remember to:
- Take ownership of your actions and redefine strength by addressing your alcohol or drug problem with a medical professional.
- Find the courage to break down generalities and misconceptions about seeking treatment by researching the many types of counseling.
- Recognize that you’re not alone in your challenges with substance use, and choose opportunities for brotherhood, fellowship, and understanding.
If you have thoughts of suicide and need support, please reach out to the following resources for free, confidential assistance 24-hours-a-day:
- National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
- Veteran’s Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255, press 1
- The Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741741
The Professionals at Cottonwood Are Ready to Help
When you’re ready to break free of stereotypes and live as your true, purposeful self, the experts at Cottonwood Tucson will provide the tools you need. Review the details of our comprehensive treatment program and take control of your future.