Common Challenges for Men in Recovery
Men and women in recovery from addiction or substance use disorders face uniquely challenging obstacles. Throughout the recovery process, men are tasked with doing things that they are often not taught while growing up. For example, in American culture, it is the norm for men to be less vulnerable and emotionally expressive. Yet, these are exactly the things necessary for successful healing! Let’s discuss some of the unique challenges men face in the recovery process and the options that are available.
Undiagnosed and Untreated Depression
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, an estimated 21 million adults (8.4%) in the United States have had at least one major depressive episode. For men specifically, this included 6.2% of the US population.
Let’s explore how depression presents itself in men and why this is important. According to one study, although women are twice as likely to be diagnosed with depression, men are four times more likely to die from suicide. This indicates a significant underdiagnosis of depression in men. Often, men don’t fully meet the official criteria listed for a depressive episode. Yet they are definitely depressed, leading their situation to go undiagnosed. These ‘male-typical’ symptoms can include aggression, irritability, violence, substance abuse, risky behavior, or somatic (body) complaints. According to this researcher, men externalize their negative emotions through these externalized behaviors, yet have no idea these could be signs of depression.
Identifying and knowing that these are symptoms of depression can play a vital role in the next steps to strengthen one’s recovery. Through individual or group therapy, a therapist can help to identify some of these patterns. And uncover the roots of what is driving these depressive symptoms.
Men are Less Likely to Seek Help
A ton of research has been conducted on gender differences related to help-seeking behaviors. For men, masculine norms can get in the way of asking for help from friends, family, or professionals. Masculine culture is associated with traits such as stoicism and lack of emotionality. Which in turn can hinder a person’s ability to seek help.
These norms create major barriers for men who are attempting to recover from a substance use disorder or addiction. In fact, it’s common for a person’s stress level to increase merely by attempts to conform to these norms. As long as the attitude and norms for men remain the same, seeking help continues to carry a stigma of weakness for men. A therapist who is easy to talk to and who can provide a safe space to take emotional risks and be vulnerable can be a huge asset to healing.
Difficulties with Connection and Vulnerability
Masculine norms are also often a driving force behind difficulties with intimacy, interpersonal connection, and emotional vulnerability. These difficulties then lead to these higher levels of discontentment, depression, and, of course, substance abuse and addiction. After all, humans are relational beings – we strive for connection and need it for emotional fulfillment. Regretfully, the men in our society are not taught how to properly express their feelings. Or connect with one another in a deep, authentic way. Intimacy and vulnerability are not rewarded especially in the developmental teenage years.
A lack of capacity for intimacy, vulnerability, and emotional expression is thus instilled and perpetuated throughout one’s life. But where do these emotions go? We often see them come out ‘sideways’ via things such as anger and aggression, depression, substance abuse, and other compulsive behaviors.
When men first get sober they are challenged to not only give up drugs and alcohol but also dive into a deeper level of emotional vulnerability. This can be extremely troubling, scary, and potentially too big of an ask for some men in early addiction recovery – that is, if we do not teach them how. If we are going to ask men to be more vulnerable and to connect more deeply with themselves and others, then it is only fair that men be given a chance to learn these skills. Group therapy, outside of traditional 12-step groups, is an excellent way to learn from other men and connect at a deeper level. This provides a safe space for real-time practice and feedback. With continuous support to take risks and open up in new ways, men are better able to then understand and express themselves.
How Men Can Seek Help
Both individual and group therapy are fantastic ways to begin the journey of healing and self-discovery. In this article, the hope is that understanding the unique challenges men face in recovery can ultimately bring about more of a discussion and less of a stigma to seeking help.
Begin Addiction Counseling in Delray Beach, FL
Men deserve support in overcoming their mental health concerns and combating the stigma around mental health. Doing so is easier said than done, which is why our team of caring therapists would be happy to offer you support today. We help clients from our Palm Beach, FL-based practice. To start your therapy journey, please follow these simple steps:
Other Services Offered with Mangrove Therapy Group
Addiction counseling isn’t the only service we offer. Our clinicians are experts in treating trauma and PTSD/C-PTSD, but also in a variety of other issues. These include issues including body image issues, anger management, anxiety, and low self-esteem. We also offer support with addictions such as substance use disorders and processing addictions, eating disorders, “Failure to Launch” syndrome, personality disorders, grief and loss, DBT, CBT, and much more. Feel free to learn more by visiting our blog