Why won’t men talk about their feelings?

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This week I had a counselling session with one of my male clients and he told me that he felt that most men would not talk about their feelings with their family or friends.  He explained that it just didn’t feel right to him, he didn’t want to worry people and he would rather talk about more cheerful subjects.  This made me feel incredibly sad, as we are led to believe that men are finding it easier to express themselves in the 21st century.  It’s given me the impetus to write about men and their feelings and to try and make everyone aware of the benefits of talking about your emotions and how you are feeling.

The Priory Group commissioned a survey of 1,000 men in the UK which backs up this anecdotal evidence:


It showed that 77% of men have suffered with common mental health symptoms such as anxiety, stress or depression.  40% had never spoken to anyone about their mental health; 29% say they are too embarrassed to talk about it, while 20% say there is a negative stigma around the issue.

My experience as a counsellor shows that many men feel depressed at some time in their lives. While sadness and loss of interest are the most widely recognisable symptoms of depression, it’s common for depression to take different forms in men and these symptoms can be easy to miss because they can overlap with societal expectations of how men are “supposed to behave.”  The following are some common ways that depression can manifest in men:

  • Anger and aggression – this can take many forms, including verbally or physically lashing out at others, having a short temper or even getting mad at yourself
  • Recklessness and risk-taking – this can manifest as driving dangerously or aggressively; or gambling
  • Excessive alcohol consumption – when depression strikes it can be tempting to use alcohol to numb negative feelings, or to fall asleep
  • Substance use – like alcohol, drugs can alter your mood and suppress feelings
  • Emotion suppression – the cultural expectation that “big boys don’t cry” means that it can be tempting to push feelings down, bottle stuff up inside and try to deal with things on your own
  • Unexplained aches and pains – because the mind and body are intricately connected, so when we’re feeling depressed, these feelings can manifest in our body too

Counselling or talking therapy is one of the most effective and widely used treatments for depression. But for many, there are a lot of unknowns about what therapy actually is, and this can get in the way of them connecting with a therapist. 

To summarise and to celebrate the positives of Talking Therapy – it is:

  • Non-judgemental
  • Confidential
  • An opportunity to get an outside/objective perspective (from someone not in your social circle, a friend, or family member)
  • A space for you to just be yourself and share what you can’t with others in your life
  • Where you develop new skills and strategies for living well
  • Where you can get support without any strings attached (you don’t have to help your therapist out in return for them helping you, or worry about saying something wrong, like you may if you were getting help from a friend or family member)
  • Where you can actually let yourself feel – maybe for the first time in years

For many men (in fact for most people!), therapy can be life changing and helps them get closer to becoming the person they want to be.

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