New research from Duke University suggests that men may respond aggressively when they perceive threats to their manhood if their sense of masculinity depends heavily on other people’s opinions. Also, the results show that the more social pressure a man feels to be masculine, the more aggressive he may be. Apart from hurting others, such toxic and fragile masculinity also hurts the men themselves.
Being a man comes with burdens
Just as gender stereotypes can be damaging to women, the same is true for men. Each society has its own rules of appropriate behavior for men and women. In Western societies, the traditional masculine gender role is self-reliant, unemotional (except when expressing anger), confident, and strong.
Many men falsely believe that they should be strong enough to fix every problem on their own. Thinking this way is not completely harmful, but stereotypes can cause male gender role stress when they go so far that violating or not adhering to traditional masculine gender role norms may lead to emotional distress. For example, financial hardships, unemployment, and difficulty in coping with problems can all lead to poor mental health.
Men’s mental health is important, yet often overlooked
Statistics show that far more men than women in the United States die by suicide, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Nevertheless, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, men are less likely than women to have received formal mental health support even if they have symptoms of depression or suffer from an anxiety disorder.
Holding on to the traditional beliefs mentioned above can keep men from accessing support and treatment. They worry about showing vulnerability, even in the case of physical illness. Therefore, helping men get help requires first ending the stigma of asking for help.
Education and support are essential
No one is immune to stress. People must realize that stress or emotional disorders can lead to medical problems. Untreated mental health issues can manifest physical ailments, especially when self-treating with alcohol and other substances. For example, long-term alcohol abuse can cause cirrhosis, gastritis, and internal bleeding problems, among other things. There are effective treatments available, but first, a person must be willing to try.
Recognizing the signs that you or someone you love may have a mental disorder is the first step toward getting timely treatment. Men and women can develop most of the same mental disorders and conditions but may experience different symptoms. Some symptoms include anger, irritability, aggressiveness, difficulty sleeping, sleeping too much, increased worry, feeling stressed, misuse of alcohol or drugs, sadness, hopelessness, and suicidal thoughts.
If you are concerned about a friend or relative, please let them know you’re there to listen to them without judgment. Someone who is experiencing mental health issues may find it hard to reach out, so a text message or a phone call could make a big difference. It is important to reassure them that it is okay to ask for help, and that support is out there. You can also find out about local services such as personal therapy or support groups.
Everyone has tough times, so please never be ashamed of asking for help when you feel trapped or vulnerable.