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For men

Emotions

Men and women may manage their emotions in different ways. While women tend to express their emotions and reach out for the support they need, men are more likely to battle through on their own and tend to hide or ignore their emotions.1 2

There are many reasons why men may find it hard to express their emotions. Some of these include:

  • Being raised in a society where expressing fear and sadness are usually unacceptable.3
  • Being taught that to be a man you need to be strong and not cry.4
  • A culture that portrays men in the media as heroic, tough, fearless stereotypes.5
  • Growing up aspiring to be like the men in your life who are often unable to express emotions themselves. If they do express themselves, feelings such as sadness may be converted to anger or pride, a feeling they find more socially acceptable.6
  • Many men experience emotions as physical sensations in their body. For example, you may feel anxiety as a knot in your stomach, being sad as tightness in your throat, or anger as a flash of heat in your face.7
  • Boys have been taught not to cry or to find the words to express how they are feeling. By not being taught to understand the connection between the sensations you feel in your body with the word that describes these emotions, it is difficult to describe to someone else when things aren’t going so well.8

The four basic emotions that every one of us feels are:

  • happiness
  • sadness
  • fear
  • anger.9

Emotions are normal and trigger behaviour or action in response to events or situations we are experiencing in our lives.10

Negative emotions such as fear and sadness can direct us to withdraw from situations we feel threatened by, or anger may lead us to act to improve a situation or to take revenge.11

Positive emotions lead us to being playful or creative and can encourage us to explore the environment around us. Consequently, these experiences can create more positive emotions, helping us grow stronger social connections with family, friends and our community, and improve the skills (such as problem solving and social skills) we need to negotiate the world we live in.12

Emotions drive how we behave and can change on a daily basis but also during different stages of our lives. Our experiences can impact on our emotions. Some examples of these experiences are:

  • death of someone close to you
  • relationship break-up, separation, divorce13 14
  • a long-term chronic illness such as diabetes15, chronic pain16 or cancer17
  • unemployment, retirement or financial stress18 19
  • someone close to you being diagnosed with a serious, life threatening illness20
  • being diagnosed with a serious, life threatening illness21
  • pressures associated with work22 or school e.g. FIFO, shiftwork, long hours etc.
  • social or physical isolation
  • injury impacting on work or the ability to play sport23
  • loneliness
  • starting a new job or moving house20
  • problems with alcohol or other drug use24
  • pressure of having to provide for and support your family
  • pregnancy of a partner and birth of a child25
  • assault, bullying or harassment
  • social media pressures such as social rejection and bullying, online dating, keeping up with perceived lifestyles projected online e.g. fake reality
  • body image pressures to look a certain way that are exaggerated by social media.

Why it is important for you to talk about how you are feeling?

As a man there are a lot of societal pressures to be strong emotionally and not to show how you are really feeling. So it’s easy to ignore or hide emotions and not deal with them. Ignoring emotions can affect your physical and mental health and can result in:

  • feelings including isolation and loneliness, frustration, anger, anxiety or depression
  • insomnia
  • increased stress
  • problems with relationships due to emotional withdrawal, which can result in less support from people close to you.26

What can you do?

  • Start by being aware of the sensations in your body (such as tightness in your chest, difficulty breathing, increased heart rate, feeling hot or cold). Which emotion might be connected to that sensation? Is it sadness, frustration, anger or fear? Is this emotion related to something that is happening to you now or something that happened in the past?
  • It can help to be aware of when these sensations occur and what is happening when they do.
  • Initially, it may be easier to talk about how you are feeling. If you can describe these physical sensations rather than talking about emotions.
  • Talking about how you are feeling is tough, it takes practice just like other skills you’ve learnt, so take it easy on yourself. Have courage to take a risk and talk to someone you trust when things are not going well. Everyone feels vulnerable at some time, it’s part of being human. You may be surprised at how much relief you feel getting it off-your-chest. The person you choose to talk to may have been through something similar in the past. So ask for the support you need.27
  • If you don’t have anyone you feel comfortable talking to, try calling Mensline Australia on 1300 789 978. The Mensline website also offers practical strategies for tough situations that you may find helpful.