Trauma is a fact of life for millions of people, men and women alike. However, men and women experience trauma a bit differently. Male trauma is similar to female trauma in terms of many of the causes and symptoms. But differences in physiology, men’s role in society and gender politics all combine to make the male trauma experience different in ways. Join Promises Brazos Valley as we look at male trauma and where helping men heal fits in the addiction treatment puzzle.
What Are Some Symptoms and Signs of Male Trauma?
First, you should know that you can heal from male trauma. The right care and strong recovery can help you break free of the shackles of trauma to become your best self. You should not attempt to self-diagnose. However, if you or someone you love exhibits one or more of these signs, it is worth investigating the possibility of trauma. Below are some signs and symptoms to look for.
Initial reactions to trauma may include:
Why is Male Trauma So Powerful?
Part of the reason male trauma has so much power is that fear is at its core. Fear is one of our most primal emotions. The response to fear begins in a primitive part of the brain called the amygdala, an almond-shaped cluster of nuclei in the temporal lobe of our brains. The amygdala and our fear response evolved for one simple reason: to protect us. It’s not hard to see how human evolution would favor the primates who responded to fear most effectively. Of course, there were many immediate threats to life and limb in the prehistoric world.
So, fear is essential. The fact is, it was likely a part of our physiology from the very beginning because we needed it to survive. Trauma is a response or manifestation of fear from an event or events. Therefore, fear and trauma are inseparable. Fear is powerful, so trauma is powerful too. But with the right kind of care, we can use the mind’s power to unravel trauma and empower you to become your best self.
Helping Men Heal
Trauma can be a bit different for men, in part because they are more likely to encounter violence or work in dangerous professions than women. Both are common sources of trauma. The other major way the experience of male trauma can differ is that, up until fairly recently, it was less socially acceptable for men to express any vulnerability than women. Even now, in traditional American culture, men are generally expected to be stoic and not talk about feelings or worries.
Men are also more likely than women to turn to alcohol and drugs as a coping mechanism for trauma, which is why trauma-informed addiction treatment is so important for men. For many of them, it may be the only opportunity they have to work on male trauma.
Sadly, trying to fit these conventional gender roles can make some men avoid getting the help they need for male trauma. After 20 years at war in Iraq and Afghanistan, we have multiple generations of men returning from their fourth or even fifth tour of duty exhibiting all the symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). And men experience almost all of the same types of traumatic experiences women do. Men are molested as boys and sexually assaulted as adults too.
Acceptance is Essential
One of the most important things to consider with male trauma is the need to accept it. Men need to feel safe asking for help and not live in fear of judgment for living with male trauma. This silence is a problem. Particularly in traditionally authoritative male occupations where trauma is more common. These include first responders like police officers, paramedics and firefighters as well as soldiers. One goal for us all is to make men feel safe in asking for help for trauma, addiction and other mental health disorders.
Men, like women, can benefit tremendously from trauma-informed addiction treatment. It helps them feel safe and empowered. It helps them put to rest recurring nightmares and regain their ability to trust and love again. Like any recovery, it takes time, courage and patience. But the help is available, and therapies for trauma are more advanced and effective than ever before, due, in large part, to the increasing awareness surrounding the issue. We can all continue to help by talking about male trauma and letting it be known that asking for help is OK. Everyone deserves to recover.