Post-traumatic stress disorder, commonly known as PTSD, is one of the most prevalent mental health conditions throughout the United States. Studies show that over 70 percent of American adults will undergo a traumatic experience during their lifetimes, and over 20 percent of these individuals go on to develop PTSD (this equates to nearly 44.7 million PTSD sufferers nationwide). Post-traumatic stress disorder is known as a psychobiological mental disorder that affects the survivors of severe traumatic incidents and circumstances. War veterans are known for being heavily afflicted, but PTSD can also affect accident survivors, those who have survived natural disasters or terrorist attacks, and even those who have experienced ongoing physical or sexual abuse or significant loss.
While studies show that women are more likely than men to suffer from symptoms of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), men are significantly more likely to undergo a traumatic event in their lifetime. 60 percent of men will live through a significant trauma during any given year, while roughly 51 percent of women will undergo a traumatic event. While the aftereffects of trauma present themselves in many different ways, only 4 percent of all individuals who experience trauma will go on to develop PTSD. Women are more apt to develop post-traumatic stress disorder, but they are also significantly more liable to seek out professional treatment for their symptoms. Men, on the other hand, rarely come forward and express how past trauma has negatively effected their current state of functioning. Social constructs pertaining to masculinity prevent many traumatized men from openly discussing their experiences.
Men and Trauma
There are several factors that prevent men from actively seeking help after undergoing a traumatic experience. The majority of these factors have to do with the perpetuation of gender stereotypes. Men don’t cry – men are supposed to be tough and strong and capable of handling whatever is thrown their way. Many young boys are raised in a way that leads them to believe expressing emotional vulnerability is ‘feminine’ – a sign of weakness. Even if this is not the message they receive from their parents or primary caregivers, they will likely pick up this stereotype at school (from their peers), or by watching popular movies or television shows. As they grow older, young men will essentially teach themselves to stifle and deny their emotional pain. If an adolescent boy undergoes a damaging traumatic event during his formative years, he may push his unresolved grief way down into the pit of his being, where it will live and fester and come out sideways every chance it gets.
Unresolved Trauma and PTSD
The amount of traumatized men who turn to substance abuse is exceedingly high for this very reason. Denying emotional pain does not work to alleviate or eliminate it, it simply grows beneath the surface until it becomes too much to bear. Once it becomes overpowering and all-consuming, reaching for an anesthetizing chemical substance seems to be the next logical step. “I am in pain, but I can’t show weakness. I can’t show vulnerability. So my only option is to do everything in my power to numb it out.” Unresolved pain may also present itself in the form of anger or physical aggression. Many of the male war veterans that suffer with symptoms of PTSD are rejected by their peers; removed from combat zones and labeled ‘weak’ or ‘incompetent’. Rather than be rejected by their contemporaries and by society at large, they will often resort to alcohol or drug abuse, or attempt to show dominance through increased belligerence.
PTSD Recovery for Men
Nearly 50 percent of all individuals attending outpatient mental health programs suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. PTSD recovery for men should be widely utilized, despite the ratio of female-to-male sufferers. Unfortunately, this is not the case. While PTSD treatment for men is both available and accessible, women are exceedingly more likely to reach out and seek therapeutic assistance. The stigma that surrounds men and PTSD is limiting and obstructive; in order for recovery to be sought, men must acknowledge that fact that they are not immune to emotional pain, and to the crippling symptoms of unresolved trauma. We at Next Chapter focus on PTSD treatment for men, offering non-judgmental therapeutic support to all those who need it.