This article is a continuation of the series about the fight men must go through in dealing with society and mental illness.
Almost from day one, boys born into modern society are bombarded with the idea that they are different from females. Not that females are not made to feel odd about themselves, but boys have it much harder in many ways.
We give boys guns, cars, fire engines, and other “manly” conventions and expect them to live up to what the symbolism these things infer.
When something horrible, such as sexual abuse occurs, boys receive two messages, each destructive in their own way.
One message is from the abuser that his body does not belong to him and that it is vile.
Message two is just as devastating, if you tell or grieve over what has happened to you, you will be different, broken, unbelievable, and unacceptable as a man.
The result is complex post-traumatic stress disorder that is difficult and traumatic in itself and gets in the way of the lives of men. Add the double whammy messages getting ingrained in their minds as to their manhood and you have a highly toxic situation for men.
The Haunting Memories of the Past
Some men push their memories of abuse so far away that they can’t explain why they have intense anger or fear, feel embarrassed around a person, have nightmares, or always feel as if something bad is about to happen.
Sometimes, after people stop drinking or using drugs to self-medicate, or have begun treatment, memories surface powerfully. This is because the act of self-medication aided in blocking memories that had been too painful to remember. Now that the drugs or alcohol is gone, the raw memories force themselves into their consciousness causing unfamiliar problems to conquer.
However, working through the memories and experiences from childhood helps to bring to light the things from the past that caused them to self-medicate in the first place. Once aired, these memories are put into the past where they belong, the need for self-medicating diminishes.
How Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Changes Men
No one with a trauma history can grow up without some kind of negative effects on their lives. Either a man will become a rescuer or a victim; a person who can’t stand to be alone and without a relationship or someone who cannot trust and would rather be alone.
There are dozens if not hundreds of other effects from complex trauma that control and manipulate men who live with this relational debilitating disorder.
Growing up believing it is wrong to cry or show emotions because it makes you less than a man must be horrendous. Being a woman, I cannot relate to how much pain, sorry, and loneliness those messages must bring to a man’s life.
Too Afraid to Remain Silent, Too Afraid to Seek Help
Men are in the unenviable position of being afraid to remain silent and too afraid to ask for help. The stigma involved with a man entering therapy is crushing with the man’s family of origin, though usually the cause of them needing help, abusing them further by scorning their efforts to get free.
How horrible, how destructive, how hateful.
Men are human beings and because of that, they are vulnerable to being hurt, living in shame, and feeling self-loathing. Unfortunately, many men feel the only way to escape is to die by suicide because they cannot see a way to get the help they need.
The Stats Tell the Story
In 2017 in the United States alone, 47,173 people died by suicide with 77.97% of them being men above the age of eighteen. I got my calculator out. Those stats mean that 36,781 men in the United States of America died by suicide in just one year.
What is even sadder is it is predicted that the stats to be higher for 2019.
Our culture is ignorant of male childhood trauma, and we hide well from even the mention of them experiencing sexual abuse. However, it is all too horribly real. Facts are facts, and they say that must be invulnerable and not feel any emotional pain. Men are to be macho, in control, and never weep.
However, if we ignore the hidden emotions of men we are responsible as a nation for the untimely and unnecessary deaths of thousands.
Men are every bit as vulnerable to the strong emotional scars they carry into adulthood as women but not being able to express their pain leaves them feeling alone and hopeless.
The Physical Toll Childhood Trauma Takes in Men
The trauma of male children takes an enormous emotional and physical toll on our men. One can multiply this by a factor of ten if you add in the repetition of the trauma these men faced as little boys.
Just look at the following findings of a study1 focusing on men who were traumatized as children.
- 8 times as likely to smoke
- 9 times as likely to be obese
- 4 times as likely to experience ongoing anxiety
- 5 times as likely to have panic reactions
- 6 times as likely to be depressed
- 6 times as likely to be promiscuous
- 6 times as likely to engage in early-life sexual intercourse
- 2 times as likely to become an alcoholic
- 1 time as likely to become intravenous drug users
There is an undeniable link between men experiencing childhood trauma and many chronic symptoms and disorders that make them vulnerable to mental health issues and early death.
Yet, we as a society punish our men who need us to understand by shaming them and using guilt to force them into the workforce when they are disabled by their complex post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms.
Who are We As A Society?
No society can remain well and carry on in the world if it is hampered by some of the vital members it contains crippled by pain. We must decide who we want to be in the future as a society, and how history will paint us as a people will depend largely on our response to the tragedy of men not getting help for their complex post-traumatic stress disorder.
Will we rise up and fight the discrimination men are facing every day for being of the male gender? Or will we allow them to suffer on remaining silent? A lot is riding on the answers to these crucial questions as we cannot and must not forget and leave out half of all the people living on this planet.
Men are vital and they count too.
What Can We Do To Change the Story?
Male childhood trauma is, much to the shame of us all, only now receiving the recognition it deserves. Trauma-informed therapists are receiving the training they need to respond appropriately to this previously unheard tragedy in our society.
For this reason, men who have experienced childhood trauma are more likely to find a therapist who can help them to conquer their pasts.
Therapists who work with male clients must learn more about the facts of CPTSD and other mental health issues men have and stop being so insulting to them. It is highly destructive to a man who comes to your office looking for help to have you say they need to buck up even if you don’t use those words. Telling a man who is having problems he MUST work regardless of their symptoms is dangerous and can be fatal.
For the rest of us, we must stop putting up with people pushing our men around. They are not super-beings who only need wings so they can fly. They are vulnerable, shakable, hurtable humans in need of respect, dignity, and love
Men desire and deserve much more than society has allotted them emotionally and physically. Even our television programming and movies don’t show the truth about what goes on inside a man’s soul. It is all make-believe, yet we try to force it to become a reality.
Our men need our help, especially those living with complex post-traumatic stress disorder. Today I am asking our readers to make a pledge to treat the men in your life and those you meet in your days with caring and open-heartedness so that they too can feel heard and wanted.
To help any man to find a therapist, there are some places to look online. Of course, the old-fashioned way of finding a therapist by word of mouth is much better but in this digital age, we like to shop around for everything.
Bottom-line, seek help if you need it, men. Ignore the troubling voices telling you are less of a man for doing so. Nothing is further from the truth. If having guts is what makes a man, then entering therapy makes you the gutsiest man around.
Find A Therapist Pages
Psychology Today: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/therapists
Good Therapy: https://www.goodtherapy.org/find-therapist.html
Find a Therapist: https://www.findatherapist.com/
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, (2004). “Helping Yourself Heal: A Recovering Man’s Guide to Coping with the Effects of Childhood Abuse.” Retrieved from: https://store.samhsa.gov/product/Helping-Yourself-Heal-A-Recovering-Man-s-Guide-to-Coping-with-the-Effects-of-Childhood-Abuse/SMA14-4134