Men’s Issues

A significant focus in my work is the stress faced by men as they address difficult questions.

  • How can I improve my relationship or parenting skills?
  • How can I control the way I express my anger?
  • How do I know if I am depressed?

These questions are familiar to many men. When they go unanswered or unaddressed, problems result.

Men and Relationships

Differences © Bill Arck, 2013

Differences © Bill Arck, 2013

Many men have been taught as boys to express their feelings with actions. They learn to fix a problem, not just talk about it. These men show their love by going to work every day, painting the trim on the house, and keeping doors and faucets repaired. So it is very confusing (and slightly annoying) to hear from a female partner that these expressions of love are not enough. “She says she just wants me to sit and listen to her.”  Or, “She says I don’t express my feelings very well.”  If you’ve heard comments like these, there is good news. You can do something about it.

People who live together will have differences. Typically, most differences are minor problems, and easily addressed. But others can become major. These larger problems may involve sexual behavior, financial decisions, chore completion, extended family issues, incompatible values, parenting strategies, infidelity, or dealing with a crisis. Sometimes attempts at solving these problems only make matters worse—withdrawing, distancing, arguing, or complaining.

These issues can be addressed, though the conversations can be challenging. A mediator can help sort things out and facilitate solutions.

Men and Anger

Power © Bill Arck, 2013

Power © Bill Arck, 2013

Harvard researchers studied 1,305 men over the course of 7 years. Each was given a standardized measure of anger, and checked for heart disease and cardiac risk factors (smoking, hypertension, high cholesterol and diabetes). None of the men had coronary artery disease at the beginning of the study. Results showed that highly angry men are more than 3 times as likely to develop heart disease then men who are less angry. The link between anger and heart disease was not explained by differences in blood pressure, smoking, or other cardiac risk factors.

Just one burst of anger may trigger a heart attack. Another Harvard study interviewed 1,623 patients about four days after suffering a heart attack. An anger measurement scale was used to rate any outbursts of anger during the 26 hours prior to the heart attack. Also measured were anger episodes over the previous year. A strong association was found between anger and heart attacks, with the risk more than doubled if the anger episode took place during the 2 hours prior to the heart attack.

In another study, Johns Hopkins researchers tracked 1,055 men over 36 years, measuring body weight, smoking, drinking, blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, depression, and family history. After taking these other risk factors into account, anger in young adulthood emerged as a predictor of premature heart disease. The angriest young men were 6 times more likely to suffer heart attacks by 55, and 3 times more likely to develop any form of cardiovascular disease.

Uncontrolled expression of anger has others costs, in addition to the physical risks. Self-esteem suffers. Relationships end. Jobs can be lost. The legal system can become involved.

Here are some clues that anger that needs attention: outbursts are out of proportion to the precipitating event; episodes have led to destruction of property or assaultive behavior; others complain about comments being judgmental, harsh, or too intense; overly aggressive behavior has been directed toward authority figures (teachers, supervisors, law enforcement); others ask, “Why do you always have to be right?”

If some of these symptoms seem familiar to you, then you have a choice. Address them, or continue to experience them. Fortunately, underlying causes of anger can be identified, and behavioral control techniques learned.

Men and Depression

In any given year, 7% of all men in North American will be clinically depressed. That means they will find their daily lives hampered or impaired in some way. Most men will not seek treatment because they worry that depression will be seen as a weakness. “Just get over it,” many men say to themselves. Well, sometimes it is not so easy. That is because depression becomes a brain event, not some mysterious weakness of the will.

Here are some of the symptoms of depression: low energy; sleep problems; loss of concentration; significant appetite changes; feeling more agitated or lethargic; loss of interest in activities; sad or depressed mood; social withdrawal; feelings of being helpless, worthless, or guilty; low self-esteem; unresolved grief issues; and vague (or specific) suicidal thoughts. A man does not need to have all these symptoms to be depressed. But if several of them seem familiar, it may be time to do something constructive about it.

Glimmering © Bill Arck, 2012