Having good mental health is just as important as having good physical health, but unfortunately, many men suffer from depression, anxiety and stress without seeking help.
In fact, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association, about 30 percent of both men and women report having experienced a period of depression in their lives, but men are four times more likely to commit suicide than women – a number that could be significantly reduced if men were more open to talking to a counselor or therapist.
Part of the reason that more men end up committing suicide is they have fewer people to talk to about their problems. Men typically have fewer friends than women, and even among the friends they have, it’s often not culturally acceptable to talk about their feelings.
“Where a woman may turn to her aunt or her sister to talk about what is going on in her life, men don’t talk to anyone,” says Daniel Levi, LCPC, a therapist who treats both men and women at the Center for Holistic Medicine. “In general, isolation makes all mental health situations worse.”
That’s why, it’s even more important for men to seek out help when they are struggling with feelings of depression, anxiety, feelings of worthlessness or strain in their primary relationships.
Here are a few of the biggest myths men have about going to a therapist, and how it may help you:
Top Myths Men Have About Going to a Therapist
1. Men should be able to handle everything
“Men often have the idea that they should be able to handle everything and when they can’t they think there’s something wrong with them,” Levi says.
And Levi says men today are more stressed than ever as men they balance working with taking on a more equal role in parenting and running the household, often without having grown up with role models for how to do that.
“There is a lack of education about how to handle different roles men have, whether that be as a husband or a parent,” he says. “The roles have changed and the expectations are different,” Levi says.
- Going to a therapist will make them seem weak
Levi says many men are reluctant to go see a therapist because it will make them seem weak.
“When you take your car into the mechanic when there’s something wrong with it, nobody ever says, ‘Oh my God, what a weak person I am! I had to take my car to the mechanic,” he says.
In fact, Levi says, taking care of yourself – including your mental health — is a good thing. “I think most men would agree that taking care of ourselves as a sign of strength. Going to the doctor or to a counselor or to a chiropractor or whatever, if it’s something that’s needed, is a sign of strength,” he says.
- It’s going to be all about talking about feelings
Men assume going to a therapist will mean they’ll have to talk about their feelings and emotions, something many man aren’t comfortable with. While that can be helpful, Levi says many therapists understand that men need a different approach to therapy than women do – less discussion about feelings and emotions and more practical, straightforward suggestions of action steps they can take to feel better.
“In an over-generalized way, men need a more directive approach and a little more honesty,” Levi says.
- They will have to let go of control
Men usually love being in control, and Levi says many men avoid therapy because they are afraid the therapist will start telling them what to do. “They need to realize that when they hire a therapist, the therapist is the hired help. They’re still the boss; they’re still in charge,” he says.
Instead, Levi says men should think of going to a therapist like hiring a business consultant who can offer information and advice. “When they go to a therapist with a mental health issue or life stressor, they’re hiring a consultant to get direction and resources about what direction to go in,” he says.
Signs of Depression in Men
Did you know that depression can show up differently among men and women? Although the signs of depression are similar in both sexes, men often present different complaints than women. For example, some men might not even know they are depressed, but instead would find themselves getting really angry at their boss, yelling at their wife or kids, or having constant headaches or back pain that won’t go away.
For men, some of the signs of depression include,
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Stomachache or back ache
- Difficulty concentrating
- Anger or hostility
- Substance abuse
- Sexual dysfunction
- Suicidal thoughts
If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, don’t be afraid to seek help.