PTSD from gender role stress. We’re expected to maintain a certain type of temperament and to withhold expressing emotion. Men can suffer silently from this, always questioning if they are “man enough” and not allowing themselves to go through the emotions necessary to process grief, trauma, anxiety, or major life transitions.
Men have been in the news and under the microscope recently. And for good reason, in general, men are in trouble. Men seem to be the ones engaging in mass shootings and sexual misconduct. But men are also falling behind in educational attainment and male suicides are much higher than females. There may be many factors that account for this. Today we will explore trauma and male gender role stress. Yet, as much as males dominate the news, we hear very little about men and trauma in the mainstream press. Aka, the root of the issues.
The research tells us that males are less likely to report trauma. When they do they often under-report the effects it has had on them. However, the fact is that men experience trauma which can result in harmful symptoms. There are some factors that increase these symptoms and deeply affect their emotional wellbeing. Male gender role stress is an often neglected and overlooked factor in post-traumatic symptoms in men.
What is Gender Role Stress and why is it important?
Men are usually expected to be strong, confident, less emotional, self-reliant, rational, determined and the provider in the family. Our culture often put expectation that seeking help is a sign of weakness.
We often learn gender role expectations from society and our families. We learn what expected of us and from what they’ve seen in our environment. The greatest influence in this area is the model from the same-sex parent. So a son that has a father who subscribes to a rigid form of masculinity may feel pressure to act the same way. Again, this pressure is not something that comes directly from the father but from the things that the son feels that are expected from him.
What is PTSD?
Post-traumatic stress disorder is a mental health problem that people develop after experiencing a traumatic event. This event can be scary, shocking and even life-threatening. However, the same event can be traumatic for a person and doesn’t have to be for others. Our background, life-experiences, personality and our mental and emotional balance in that particular moment influence how we perceive and store that event.
In order to be diagnosed with PTSD the person should have the following symptoms for at least one month: a minimum of one re-experiencing symptom (frightening thoughts, flashbacks, bad dreams), a minimum of one avoidance symptom (avoiding to think about the traumatic event, avoiding the place of the traumatic event, avoidance of emotions, people or objects that are related to the traumatic experience), a minimum of two cognition and mood symptoms (loss of interest in activities that they used to enjoy, negative thoughts about himself or the world around them, guilt, blame, trouble remembering important details of the traumatic event or remembering the traumatic event in great detail), a minimum of two arousal and reactivity symptoms (having anger outbursts, being easily upset, feeling tense constantly, having difficulty sleeping, having diet issues that they didn’t experience before).
Some factors that increase the risk of PTSD are:
- experiencing a traumatic event or multiple traumatic events
- childhood trauma
- not having the appropriate social support after experiencing trauma
- mental illness, substance abuse
- experiencing stressful events after the traumatic experience
- dealing with the trauma of other people
- not being able to properly process the traumatic event or talk about the traumatic event with others
- any type of pressure that they receive from their environment or from themselves.
After experiencing a traumatic event, in order to reduce the risk of PTSD it’s important to try to find the appropriate way to process the trauma, look for support, find coping strategies, and find the appropriate therapist for your needs. A great tool that can help you reprocess traumatic events is EMDR therapy. Practice guidelines and studies have shown that trauma-focused psychotherapies have the most evidence for treating PTSD.
The link between Male Gender Role Stress and PTSD.
Various researchers are studying the link between male gender role stress and PTSD. It’s important to identify each factor that increases the risk of PTSD in order to be able to work on each of them. While it’s important to reprocess the traumatic event in order to overcome it fully, it’s also helpful to look at ways to work on each of those factors in order to decrease the severity of the symptoms.
The main links between male gender role stress in PTSD are the following:
- Men are considered strong, fearless and rational. It’s common for men to hide their emotions so they might not be able to seek appropriate help and talk about their feelings and manage to reprocess their trauma properly.
- They usually use unhealthy coping strategies, such as alcohol abuse so they can avoid dealing with difficult feelings such as anger, grief, sadness.
- Since the image of strong, fearless men is so deeply accepted by so many people, men might not even accept the fact that they are dealing with a traumatic memory or difficult emotions. Men can be more easily in denial while dealing with trauma because they are not able to accept their vulnerability.
For these reasons men who experience male gender role stress are at higher risk for developing PTSD and in some cases the severity of their PTSD.
Here at Denver Men’s Therapy we are dedicated to treatment male trauma. It is our mission and life’s work to reduce the stigma of men’s mental health so that guys can get effective treatment that they deserve.
Gender Role Stress and PTSD: There is hope!
One very effective treatment for trauma is EMDR therapy. Over the years of using EMDR therapy with men we have found time and time again that it is the perfect match for guys. One reason is that EMDR therapy does not require a lot of talking. EMDR therapy also provides a framework and tools so that men feel ready and prepared for the difficult work ahead. Next, are you ready? Then, contact us.