Being raised within a traditional male environment does not necessarily result in difficulties, but it is likely to have affected a person’s idea of what it means to “be a man.” Unfortunately, some of the more traditional ways that men have learned to deal with their emotions can sometimes lead to mental health issues such as depression and anxiety , work-related stress, or relationship difficulties.
Common men’s issues that might be helpful to discuss with a therapist are:
Anger and irritability. Often men are taught to hide more vulnerable emotions such as hurt or sadness and instead men often express anger and lash out. This may be the only way men have learned to communicate they are hurting. However, anger can have disastrous effects in the workplace and on personal and romantic relationships. Learning how to communicate hurt and sadness effectively can facilitate an opportunity for repair and even strengthen relationships. Psychotherapy can help men let go of problematic anger, and instead, express the vulnerability needed to have fulfilling relationships.
Intimacy and affection. Stereotypical male ways of expressing love are to “do stuff” for his partner. This could be buying something, fixing something, or attempting to solve problems for his significant other. Partners of men can sometimes feel emotional distance when they want someone to listen without problem solving or communicate love instead of “showing” love by buying something or doing something. Psychotherapy can assist with understanding your love language and that of your partner. It can help with learning new ways of expressing love and intimacy.
Non-medically explained sexual issues. Medically explained causes of erectile dysfunction, reduced sex drive (hypoactive sexual desire), or premature ejaculation are addressed by medical doctors. However, psychological and lifestyle factors can also contribute to these difficulties. A therapist can help by treating underlying anxiety (e.g., performance anxiety) and depression that can contribute to sexual difficulties. Therefore, therapy can improve sexual performance and related concerns.
Numbing or pushing away emotions. Some men may have been raised in environments where the very experience of an emotion was unacceptable. This can result in attempts to avoid, hide or control emotions. For example, drug/alcohol use, ending relationships, physical altercations, devaluing the importance of loved ones, or keeping people at a distance can be ways to avoid uncomfortable feelings. Unfortunately, these attempts to control emotions can result in even more problems. Therapy can help men identify, learn to deal with, and effectively express emotions in ways that that are more adaptive and can help preserve and strengthen relationships.
What is a “men’s issue”:
What makes an issue a “men’s issue” depends on how it was developed. Men’s issues are developed within a context (such as family he was raised in, time period, culture, or geographical area). Such contexts have the potential to define behavior as something a man would or would not do. These definitions can be limiting and unhelpful. They can restrict the problem-solving ability of men in situations that require more flexible and adaptive responses.
How does therapy address men’s issues?
Therapy is a private, confidential space where men can openly connect to what matters to them. While it does not have to focus explicitly on “men’s issues,” a therapist can assist with awareness, learned ways of expressing psychological pain, and assist with more effective ways of being and relating to others.