Men face unique challenges in society today that set them back from living a life that’s most conducive to their health and happiness. As depicted in songs, movies, books and more, men are expected by society to be strong, relentless, competitive, stoic individuals. Strong emphasis is placed on male masculinity, with the assumption that if you’re not “masculine enough”, you’re not a real man. Unfortunately, the male social construction leaves out room for men to experience very real, basic “human” emotions in healthy ways. Rather than expressing their pain, men tend to hold it in – because it’s seen as the “strong” thing to do.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) previously published a book that addressed the specific behavioral needs of men in recovery. They emphasized how cultural norms present major problems for many men, especially as their economic status, occupation, geographic location, religious affiliation, education, race, ethnicity, sexuality and more can teeter the public eye in favor or against their own masculinity. In the United States, young men are taught early on what is expected of them when it comes to how they talk, act, feel and think. Substance use is a common display of “masculinity”, and many men find themselves proving their “worth” through drinking competitions and more.
After-work gatherings, job celebrations, sports victories and birthdays are seen as typical occasions where men are expected to drink. The notion of competition and success is what drives a lot of these behaviors, though unfortunately it leaves many men struggling with addiction as well as mental health issues. A 2017 study conducted by researchers from Indiana University Bloomington found that this “masculinity” perception is actually a self-defeating behavior, as those with “traditional masculine norms” are likely to experience higher rates of depression, anxiety and stress.
Furthermore, masculine expectations suggest that men are more self-reliant – which means that if they are struggling with addiction (or mental health concerns, for that matter) they will be less likely to seek help.
If you have a loved one who is struggling with addiction, encourage them to seek the help they need today. There is no time like the present moment.
Cumberland Heights is a nonprofit alcohol and drug-addiction treatment center located on the banks of the Cumberland river in Nashville, Tennessee. On a sprawling 177-acre campus, we are made up of 2 12-Step immersion campuses, 12 outpatient recovery centers and 4 sober living homes. We believe that each person has a unique story to tell – and that’s why we always put the patient first.