Ask a man if he’s ever experienced trauma, and he’ll probably just shrug or say something dismissive. The reality is that 61% of men have undergone a traumatic event at some point in their lives, although frequently, these men are not given the opportunity to explore the impact these occurrences have on their mental health. When this is the case, many people will turn to substance use in an attempt to self-medicate.
Since 2014, June has been celebrated as PTSD Awareness Month. In observance, we’d like to explore the relationship between men and trauma.
Trauma can be either situational (a car accident, singular incident, or witnessing someone be murdered) or chronic (years of abuse and neglect, participation in active combat). Those who experience multiple disturbing events, such as a combination of sexual and emotional abuse, see greater effects of these occurrences. This can include weakened immune systems, greater vulnerability to stress, increased risk of mental health issues and addiction, and potentially passing on unhealthy coping strategies to one’s children.
Unfortunately, trauma and addiction are frequently intertwined with one another. A child who has experienced abuse is 46 times more likely to become an injection drug user than the general population, and the VA estimates that between 35% and 75% of veterans with PTSD misuse drugs and alcohol. This commonly stems from an attempt to self-medicate, quiet disturbing thoughts, and calm physical symptoms of trauma.
How Men Feel Pain
Unfortunately, many men have been conditioned not to discuss their traumatic pasts. They may dissociate – mentally distance themselves from the incidents in question – or completely forget key moments of abuse. If they do remember and attempt to work through their emotions, it can be challenging to discuss difficult topics with friends.
While you may psychologically distance yourself from memories of trauma, your body doesn’t. Through tissue memory, the body of a survivor responds to stimuli differently than those of the general population would. This can manifest as:
- Chronic pain
- Anger or irritability
- Social withdrawal
Many people experiencing these symptoms are shocked to learn that they’re connected with a past history of abuse or their experiences on the front lines. Luckily, a path to healing exists for those whose lives are affected by trauma.
How to Heal
First, men need the support and stories of other men. By joining a support group for those who have experienced the same types of events as you – and overcome similar obstacles – you can get used to opening up about difficult topics. You’ll also hear stories similar to yours, reinforcing the fact that you are not alone, and your past can be conquered.
You also should be safe and far away from the source of trauma. If friends and family members from your using days continue to hover around your social circle, it’s difficult to allow the past to stay in the past. Those people could also continue holding memories and power over you, stifling your ability to move forward. This is a great chance to begin anew.
Finally, you should work with a professional to develop healthy coping mechanisms. Addiction can develop as a response to trauma, and now that you want to be free of drugs and alcohol, it’s important to create a new plan for how you’ll respond to tough times. By participating in counseling, you’ll unpack traumatic events and learn how to harness mindfulness, spiritual practice, and other routines to manage your reactions.
Trauma-Focused Care for Men
Spearhead Lodge provides care uniquely tailored to the needs of men who have experienced trauma. Our individualized programs allow you to work alongside mental health professionals to overcome addiction and fully process past traumas. Our team is available 24/7 at 1-866-905-4550.