Why do men in pain hold it in up until the last minute, and then seek out help when the damage has been done? Are men naturally predisposed to pain aversion? What would happen if men were to more proactively seek out mental health counseling or therapy before an otherwise manageable problem ended up destroying them?
Men are beings not socialized to seek out resources and social support the way women do. Women can seek out the comfort and support of friends and family, whereas men tend to hide and obscure their pain in private. A lot of this has to do with the stigmatization of what it means to be a man in our culture. Men are taught, from an early age on, that “real men don’t cry”, and to stuff our emotions and shift into mastery or accomplishment mode to overcome adversity and get things done in the world.
The effect is that problems fester and grow, like mushrooms growing in the dark and dampness of a dead tree. Without light, these problems will get larger, be they marriage problems, work-related issues or general mental health issues.
Depression has many causes, but it gets exacerbated by this effect. Depression can be treated by medications and/or therapy or counseling, but many men succumb to “suffering in silence” and don’t seek it out until facets of their life start to crack at the foundations. They choose to seek pain alleviation when things are bad, and possibly irreparable.
Seeking out a professional counselor for help, and stepping out of denial and stigmatization, are huge tasks for men to do. Often, it’s the bulk of the work just getting there to want help. Seeking out that help proactively is critical in learning the skills needed to learn to help oneself, so that life can get easier, relationships better, and quality of life can be improved.