PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) is one of the most common mental health concerns in the country, with over 24.4 million American citizens (7.8 percent) currently experiencing trauma-related symptoms. While PTSD is more common amongst women than amongst men (10.4 percent of women suffer from PTSD, in contrast to 5 percent of men), post-traumatic stress disorder is still exceptionally common amongst members of the male population. This specific trauma-related disorder is prevalent amongst veterans of war; 31 percent of Vietnam veterans, 10 percent of Gulf War veterans, and over 11 percent of Afghanistan veterans suffer from PTSD. Most of the PTSD treatment for men focuses on overcoming the lasting psychological effects of wartime trauma; because of societal gender roles, men suffering from war-related trauma have a much easier time coming forward than men who have been sexually assaulted.
Men, PTSD, and Social Stigma
However, PTSD is also exceedingly common amongst males who have undergone sexual trauma. Generally speaking, sexually traumatic experiences are often overlooked when it comes to men. Some extent of social stigma still persists when it comes to men and sexual abuse. Social constructs of masculinity are directly tied into physical strength and emotional fortitude. Is a man really a man at all if he was overpowered sexually? Is a man really a man at all if he experiences symptoms of trauma, which translate (in his mind, at least) to emotional frailty? Real men don’t cry. Real men brush themselves off and ‘get over it’. And there is absolutely no way that a real man could ever be overpowered by a woman – that, of course, is simply out of the question.
Men and Sexual Abuse
Of course, in actuality, this is not the case. Men are just as susceptible to sexual abuse as women, and the emotional and psychological outcomes are just as severe. Significant sexual trauma results in deep-seated emotional wounds. This has nothing to do with gender. One out of every ten men (10 percent) nationwide has experienced some degree of sexual trauma, yet gender roles prevent the majority of sexually traumatized men from coming forward. Additionally, symptoms tend to look quite different in men than they do in women. Men and boys who have undergone a sexual assault are far more likely to develop anxiety disorders, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. They are also far more susceptible to substance abuse. The probability of alcohol dependency is as high as 80 percent amongst men who have been sexually abused, in contrast to 11 percent amongst men who have not been sexually abused. Finally, exposure to sexual abuse in early childhood and adolescence often leads to a dramatic increase in risk-taking behavior. This risk-taking behavior often includes sexual promiscuity, which increases the risk of STD contraction and unplanned pregnancies.
PTSD Treatment for Men
Unfortunately, men who have been assaulted often feel stigmatized, which prevents many of them from coming forward – either to report their assault or to receive necessary psychological help. PTSD treatment for men is widely available, however, and we at Next Chapter specialize in the treatment of men who have undergone sexual assault (as well as numerous other types of moderate to severe trauma). We work to instill the importance of emotional vulnerability, and help our clients differentiate between societal constructs of masculinity and true inner strength. For more information on our comprehensive program of PTSD treatment for men, please feel free to give us a call today.