Why The Men In Our Lives Aren’t Sprinting to Therapy (Guest Blog by Gwynaedd Howdyshell)

I decided to ask an open question on my Instagram story to see why the men who followed me were afraid/reluctant to seek therapy. The responses surprised me in comparison to much of the research that I’ve come across.  I noticed a lot of toxic masculinity was a common theme and shame was super prevalent. Ranging from fears of being labeled as ‘crazy’ for going to therapy, or feeling like they’d rather “pull themselves up by their bootstraps”, as well simply feeling like they didn’t need therapy as long as they had friends to lean on.

Let’s look at the statistics – it would almost appear that men are having less mental health issues than women, since they are less likely to have a diagnosis. Unfortunately, it’s only showing that they are less likely to be diagnosed because of the underlying factor: they are less likely to seek help. Men are actually struggling with a ton of pressure in society to provide financial stability and be the ‘breadwinner’ and ‘top dog’ at home and at work. They are not likely to discuss having any family issues or marital advice and support when they are struggling. 

They are even less likely to EVER discuss something bad that happened to them as a kid.Many men believe that if they just put their childhood in a “forget it box,” they will be able to “get over it and move on.” Unfortunately, that is just not how trauma heals and our bodies hold on to things if they are not properly digested. It is a physiological process not a “Mind over matter” situation. 

There are so many roles in society that push men to be ‘self-reliant’ and so many movie and media roles where men are ‘masculine and stubborn.’ Because of all of this, they are suffering silently and coping quietly – 6 times more likely to develop substance use problems, and 4.5 times more likely to commit suicide than women. 

Men are more likely to be diagnosed with neurodevelopmental disorders like autism and ADHD, yet they are less likely to be diagnosed with mood disorders like anxiety and depression. This disparity is related to the fact that there’s not much ability to ‘hide’ neurodevelopmental disorders – they often show at a young age. With mood disorders, they are able to be hidden and coped with in a much more covert way – and much harder for men to seek help with due to the amount of shame rooted in the vulnerability of seeking help in the depths of depression and anxiety. 


Brene Brown said it best when she researched how men experience shame and vulnerability from her book “Daring Greatly” when talking about how men experience vulnerability and shame from women. 

“We ask them to be vulnerable, we beg them to let us in, and we plead with them to tell us when they’re afraid, but the truth is that most women can’t stomach it. In those moments when real vulnerability happens in men, most of us recoil with fear, and that fear manifests as everything from disappointment to disgust.”

The system of patriarchy is not only destroying many aspects of women’s livelihood – and although men benefit from it greatly in some ways – they are suffering at the hands of it greatly as well. It is so heartbreaking that they too, miss out on true connection and being seen due to the toxic standards of what it supposedly means to be masculine.

To the ones who are putting in the work, you are setting such a profound example of healing – I know that it’s not easy. The impact that you’re making on yourself and the larger society for seeking help is breaking generations of silence that has kept men stuck in violence and pain, quietly suffering. Even if it hurts to heal right now, and you might not want to admit that you’re seeking help, you’re brave as hell for going against the messages that society and media has put upon you to be the backbone of strength and masculinity. You’re paving the way for others to seek help, and through that it’s going to be a chain reaction of better humans. 

For those of you that are struggling with whether or not to seek support- I honor that you are up against some strong reasons not to.  Let’s take a look:

  1. Men are really only encouraged or ‘allowed’ to show 3-4 emotions max. Anything else is way too much. Society says you are allowed to express anger, shut down and relative contentment (Don’t get too excited or joyful- because somehow that is not masculine).
  2. The misguided and overdeveloped culture of individualism makes you think you should be able to figure things out by yourself.  That is not how humans are wired, we need community.  In fact, we learn to regulate our nervous system through healthy, attuned attachment.  It’s a bit of a paradox- You can’t do it alone AND only you can do it. 
  3. “Therapy is for women.” I like to remind the men I work with that even Tony Soprano had a therapist. 
  4. Therapy is indulgent, expensive, it’s basically woo woo like pedicures and massages. 
  5. “Nothing is wrong with me” – essentially you have to be in severe psychotic episodes in order to qualify for therapy. I’d like to suggest that all humans are actually wired for connection and support.  This doesn’t mean weakness- this is bravery.
  6. Therapy means they will have to take accountability for the shitty things they may have done, and admitting those things is terrifying. Well- this is actually not a myth, but I honor that it is scary.  Again- this is brave though. Trust me- taking accountability for things is way better than living in the shame spiral and then lashing out with your road rage. 
  7. Therapy means that they could find out something about themselves that solidifies “the truth” that they’re denying – it could bring out a diagnosis, it could label them, if others found out they’d judge them.  
  8. Men are already given a ton of numbing coping skills by society – they don’t have time to ‘feel’.  Women are already reading every self-help book that’s trending 

There are good reasons that people, especially men, don’t feel particularly excited to seek therapy.  I get it AND I also know that it does get better when we can recognize these blocks and still tap into the bravery of asking for support when we need it (and it is a frickin’ intense time to be a human so we all need it).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s