Post-traumatic stress disorder often affects sufferers differently, but symptoms tend to overlap to include powerful flashbacks, nightmares, depression, and difficulty maintaining concentration. Men may also face a range of signs and symptoms that are particularly associated with their experience.
PTSD is caused by witnessing or experiencing a traumatic experience or series of traumatic experiences/events. In severe cases, it can be debilitating. Left untreated, this condition can substantially impact the quality of one’s life and even lead to suicide. However, with treatment, PTSD can be managed.
The unfortunate stigma of mental illness has impacted the way people seek–or do not seek– treatment for mental health symptoms, but in recent decades, that stigma has been challenged. As more sufferers, particularly men (who have been traditionally slow to ask for help with mental health problems), break the silence and acknowledge their experiences, that stigma is eroding.
Mental health is dynamic, and its symptoms are part of the human condition. Sometimes symptoms veer into clinical territory; that is, the person doesn’t get better on their own. When symptoms persist, just as if symptoms of a cold or flu persist, individuals should seek proper healthcare to get the support they need to recover or manage their condition successfully.
Men and PTSD
Both men and women can be diagnosed with PTSD. Roughly five out of every 100 people are diagnosed with PTSD in a given year. Although women experience this condition twice as much as men, women are more likely to seek treatment and are less likely to attempt suicide. Because men seek treatment less than women, they are also more likely to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol. Rates of PTSD are also higher in men given certain occupations such as working as a member of the military or as a first responder. These occupations, of course, put people in the way of traumatic events and experiences as a matter of routine.
Some of the most common signs and symptoms of PTSD in men include:
- Reliving trauma in flashbacks / nightmares
- Inability to stop thinking about the traumatic event in question
- Difficulty focusing or concentrating
- Significant emotional distress
- Symptoms of anxiety and/or depression
- Mood swings / irritability
- Social withdrawal
- Increase in reckless behaviors
Some individuals may demonstrate intense feelings of anger–even a propensity toward violence. Some may feel suicidal. These symptoms may not improve on their own without treatment, which is why it’s crucial to seek mental healthcare treatment and get relief from symptoms and help managing this condition for the long term. PTSD can be managed. People do recover.
PTSD Stories from Men: Interviews with Individuals Who Have Experienced PTSD
When men talk about their PTSD, they demonstrate the diverse range of traumatic experiences that can trigger the condition. Experiences that can cause PTSD include:
- Violent assault
- Sexual assault / abuse
- Domestic abuse
- Loss of a child
- Victim of a crime (i.e. kidnapping, robbery)
- Death of a loved one
- Animal attack
- Being caught by a fire
- Car accident
- Severe injury
- Witnessing the suffering of another
Men who have spoken publicly about their PTSD have shared stories like these:
- After being the victim of a violent attack: “For months after the attack, I couldn’t close my eyes without envisioning the face of my attacker. I suffered horrific flashbacks and nightmares. For four years after the attack I was unable to sleep alone in my house. I obsessively checked windows, doors, and locks.”
- After witnessing the death of a child in a war-torn country: “Even though I was home, I never left the battlefield. I brought the war home and it took a toll on me, my Family, wife and children. I got to be good friends with Jim and Jack. You may know them as Mr. Beam and Mr. Daniels.”
- On treatment–finally getting treatment: “I embraced the momentum of healing and fully encompass the magnitude and limitless beauty of post-traumatic growth.”
One of the issues that many of these men share is their initial unwillingness to accept their diagnosis and get professional help. Even with resources and medical insurance, many men continue to view mental health conditions with stigma, demonstrating that one of the most powerful barriers to recovery is the unwillingness to seek mental healthcare.
Unique Challenges That Men with PTSD Face in Seeking Treatment and Recovery
Men with PTSD face two types of challenges when it comes to treatment and recovery: internal and external challenges. For many men, PTSD challenges their sense of strength and weakness. Some continue to view the condition as weakness–an inability to “handle it.” They may also fear that revealing their condition will have an impact on their work and opportunities for promotion.
External challenges include the perception of others who continue to perpetuate unhealthy stigmas. Employers who have antiquated views of mental illnesses like PTSD are barriers. A lack of access to mental healthcare treatment (lack of medical insurance) can also be barriers to treatment and recovery.
Strategies and Resources for Men with PTSD
One of the key resources for men with PTSD is, in fact, other men with the condition who have shared their experiences publicly. Their personal stories resonate with others who are struggling and have not yet revealed their condition or sought mental health treatment. When men are willing to share their symptoms and how treatment helped them resolve those symptoms and effectively manage their PTSD, it is a powerful inspiration for others. Their experiences become a roadmap for recovery that others can follow.
Today, there are many effective treatments and therapies for PTSD. By seeking help with a licensed mental health clinician, men can begin their recovery journey. This journey may include weekly therapy sessions, medications, and support groups. By tapping into these resources, men can achieve recovery.
Importance of Breaking the Silence and Reducing the Stigma Around Men’s Mental Health
Mental health conditions are complex but part of the human condition. The stigma that has traditionally surrounded mental health continues to be a major barrier in the recovery of conditions like PTSD–which is treatable. Each individual is different. Some people require a long time in therapy before they experience improvements in their condition; others begin to experience relief soon after getting professional help managing their symptoms. Don’t let unhealthy stigmas prevent you from getting help–and getting better.
Seek Help for PTSD: There Is Hope for Recovery
Given the prevalence of PTSD, it’s no wonder that therapeutic treatments for this condition have significantly increased in recent years. From conventional treatments like talk therapy to alternative treatments like art therapy, there are more treatment options than ever.