Learn how hypermasculinity can alter behavior, mask depression, and lead to addiction

Learn how hypermasculinity can alter behavior, mask depression, and lead to addiction

According to the Pan American Health Organization, one in five men will not reach the age of 50 in America due to issues relating to hypermasculinity, also known as toxic masculinity.

While masculinity itself is not negative, hypermasculinity is a cultural issue that harms men just as much as it does women. 

Researchers continue to uncover the many connections between hypermasculinity and poor mental health in men. This is even more true for men raised or working in hypermasculine environments, like the field of first responders. 

Understanding how hypermasculinity can affect you or your loved one is an important first step in creating better mental health and a happier environment.

It’s crucial to learn how behaviors can be altered, depression can be masked, and addictions created due to toxic masculinity. 

Hypermasculine behavior

Hypermasculinity is a learned behavior in many cultures, especially in America. 

We’ve all been socialized to think of specific characteristics as masculine and others as feminine. Men are encouraged to display dominance, suppress their emotions, and take control of every situation. 

While “feminine” traits, such as vulnerability, emotionality, and passivity, are often socially looked down upon when displayed in a man. Of course, the reality is that every person, man or woman, is a combination of masculine and feminine traits. 

Unfortunately, old-fashioned stereotypes persist in every aspect of our society. They can cause many men to internalize their emotions and cope in very unhealthy ways. 

For some men, a lifetime of gendered socialization creates a barrier between themselves and others. They might feel as if sharing their feelings or expressing emotions is wrong. 

This attitude can be further exacerbated by specific subgroups that encourage hypermasculinity. Such groups include gender-segregated sports teams and some male-dominated professions. 

While these environments offer a connection with teammates and colleagues, they can also create a sense of pressure and shame. Whenever anyone behaves in a way that is not considered masculine enough, these groups may make fun of them or question their manhood.

Hypermasculinity and depression

While everyone is different, there are some common issues to look for in men with mental health issues who are struggling with hypermasculinity. 

For example, these men may feel sad or unmotivated due to depression but express their feelings via anger or rage. They often feel that these emotions are more socially acceptable than sadness or vulnerability. 

Some additional symptoms to look for include fatigue, irritability, sleep issues, a lack of concentration, and a disinterest in things they once enjoyed.

While hypermasculinity and gendered thinking harm women as well, women are given much more “wiggle room” when it comes to conforming to gender norms. Men, however, are often forced to fit into rigid definitions of masculinity. 

When men are inevitably unable to live up to the social standard, they often face an identity crisis. This is especially true for men who’ve spent most of their lives conforming to hypermasculine behavior. 

In circumstances where that is not possible, such as the development of a mental health disorder, they don’t know what to do. Depression is a common mental illness among men, claiming the lives of more men than women every year by suicide. 

The only way to combat depression and other mental illnesses is through treatment that usually involves talk therapy. Letting go of a hypermasculine perception is often the first step to mental wellness for many men.

Hypermasculinity and addiction

The harm caused by hypermasculinity is often severe. Many men feel that they’ll never be good enough or struggle to recognize themselves as they go through an emotional hurdle. 

Many men who struggle with these common issues turn to drugs or alcohol to cope. Substance abuse is used to numb and mask the pain but may also allow men to express themselves in a way that is considered unacceptable while sober. 

Additionally, hypermasculine subcultures, such as those of first responders, encourage alcohol use. Inevitably, using drugs or alcohol in this way leads to addiction in many men. 

Unfortunately, talking about addiction can be tricky in the presence of hypermasculinity. It’s crucial for men and those who care about them to deal with these damaging cultural norms. 

Men suffering from mental health and addiction must be allowed to open up and talk about their trauma, emotional pain, and struggles to move forward and step into a life of wellness.

Five of the most common substitute addictions, learn how to avoid them

Five of the most common substitute addictions, learn how to avoid them

Avoiding substitute addictions in recovery is essential to ensuring mental wellness and preventing subsequent behavioral issues.

While many of these behaviors are less severe than drug and alcohol abuse, they can affect your quality of life and contribute to the overall detriment of your mental health. 

Substitute addictions are a way for your brain to find a new source of those feel-good neurotransmitters stimulated with substances. Many people with drug or alcohol addictions discover that they begin participating in other types of compulsive behavior in sobriety.

While sobriety can make you feel optimistic and like nothing can go wrong, inevitably, life will present you with challenges, whether they be unexpected substance cravings or outside stressors that contribute to poor mental health. At this point, people in recovery tend to falter. Most commonly, they relapse or pick up a substitute addiction. 

Below are the five most common substitute addictions and information on avoiding them. 

Five most common substitute addictions

There are endless possibilities when it comes to behavioral addictions. A replacement addiction can occur any time a behavior is activating the reward system in a way that results in a compulsion. 

However, a few behaviors are considered the most common among individuals with substance use disorders.

Here are the most common substitute addictions experienced in recovery:

  • Binge eating
  • Excessive shopping
  • Uncontrolled gambling
  • Extreme amounts of exercise
  • Lack of control over sexual thoughts & impulses

Binge eating is typical behavior in this group, as the brain can learn to use food the same way it once used substances. Eating in excess, especially when consuming foods high in fat and sugar, can stimulate the same circuits in the brain as drugs and alcohol.

Also, many people find a replacement addiction in shopping. We have all had the experience of buying something for ourselves or someone else to improve our mood. This behavior can become problematic if it becomes a compulsion. Spending money stimulates the reward system in the brain as well, and some people become addicted to the feeling of purchasing items. 

While excessive shopping may not seem as big a problem compared to substance abuse, it can become severe, threatening a person’s financial stability and family life.

As stated above, some of the other common substitute addictions include exercise, sex, and gambling, which are acceptable behaviors, and healthy when done in moderation. But, when these behaviors become compulsive and extreme, they can take a significant toll on your mental health and the lives of those around you. 

Tips to avoid substitute addictions

The first step in avoiding substitute addictions is to educate yourself and those closest to you about this recovery issue. It’s imperative to keep an eye out for signs of problematic behavior. 

If you pay attention, your intuition can tell you when a response becomes unhealthy or threatens your mental health. For example, maybe you’ve always shopped online but are suddenly shopping at odd hours, hiding your purchases from loved ones, and applying for credit cards that you don’t need. 

At this point, your behavior is most likely becoming a problem; the way you feel when participating in these behaviors can also clue you in. For example, people who develop behavioral addictions often report feeling out of control or euphoric during the activity. Afterward, they often feel a deep sense of guilt and shame, just like the highs and lows of alcohol and drug use.

Staying on top of your recovery work even when you’re feeling secure in sobriety can prevent substitute addictions. Quitting drugs or alcohol often makes users feel as if there’s a void that needs to be filled by a new vice. 

Remember, even the healthiest people find outlets to work through emotional and mental hardships. Moreover, healthy people can do so in a way that doesn’t harm themselves or others. 

Be sure that as you move forward, explore new ways to combat stress by exercising regularly, meditating, or doing something creative. The key to mental wellness is balance, and our addiction and mental health experts at First Responder Wellness are always here to support you in achieving that balance for your long-term recovery. 

Three reasons why first responders in addiction recovery should add daily affirmations to their routine

Three reasons why first responders in addiction recovery should add daily affirmations to their routine

Daily affirmations are one of the easiest and most accessible wellness routines first responders can add to their self-care regimens while in addiction recovery. 

First responders are constantly on the go, working 10 to 16 hours per day in high-stress environments – they need self-care routines that they can access everywhere they go. 

Recovering from addiction and transitioning back to a busy lifestyle is one of the most difficult experiences to endure. Therefore, we need to equip first responders with the necessary tools to save them from relapsing and spiraling down a dark path.

Here are some daily affirmations you can add to your daily routine: 

  • I am strong, I am powerful
  • Recovery is my priority 
  • My life matters, I am loved
  • I can ask for help
  • I am worthy of my goals
  • It’s okay to take a break
  • I will succeed

Now, if you haven’t been saying affirmations out loud, in your head, writing them down, or displaying them in your home – you really should be, and here’s why. 

Boosts self-confidence

We all need a self-confidence boost, but it can really help a first responder in addiction recovery believe in themselves to continue on their journey towards wellness. 

Anytime you begin to think negatively, say an affirmation out loud; it’ll completely shift your perspective and build a foundation of higher self-worth. Sometimes when we begin using affirmations, we don’t really believe it. But what is amazing is that the more we say these affirmations, the more we start to not only believe them but become them as well.

Calms nerves and anxiety

Whenever you’re feeling anxious, whether at home, work, or out in public – affirmations can help ground you, bringing you back to the present. 

Sometimes we work ourselves up, stressing out over things that haven’t happened yet, causing anxiousness and anxiety – often felt by first responders worrying about relapse. 

The moment you begin to feel anxiousness or anxiety, say an affirmation for about three minutes and notice how it takes your mind off of your worries. 

Promotes grounding

First responders have a lot to worry about, including saving and protecting lives, caring for their families, and then throwing in treatment for addiction and recovery – it’s a lot to handle. 

A mistake many of us make is living in the future, worrying about what could happen, and not living in the now. Daily affirmations are a great way to promote grounding, helping us see all that we have in front of us and all that we’re thankful for.

Sure, times are tough, but there are still things that we’re grateful for. Affirmations can bring you clarity and help you understand why it’s important to stay on the journey towards wellness. 

This is the difference between inpatient and outpatient care for addiction

This is the difference between inpatient and outpatient care for addiction

The first step towards recovery is deciding to seek help, so props to you for being here. We understand the traumas of a first responder, as many of our clinicians and team have been in your shoes.

Now, as you look further into our wellness programs, you will hit the point of having to decide on inpatient or outpatient care for addiction.

While we typically recommend inpatient care to strengthen the success of sobriety for our clients, we understand that not everyone can fully remove themselves from work, family, or school.

While both programs equally focus on recovery and rehabilitation, each has its unique attributes and benefits depending on your substance use disorder’s severity and your specific goals.

The first responder suffering from substance abuse disorder and their loved ones must understand the benefits and differences of each program before selecting one.   

Inpatient/Residential care

Inpatient treatment allows clients to live on-site during their care. This provides a safe space that aligns with recovery and healing without distraction. This can be an environment that helps people avoid influences and temptations that may normally trigger substance use in their daily lives. 

Being immersed in a community of peers on a similar journey can help first responders benefit from the support of other law enforcement officers, firefighters, paramedics, and EMTs. 

The benefits of inpatient care include: 

  • Residential facilities with 24-hour care to help clients who are going through detoxification, addressing mental health concerns, or developing skills for long-term recovery.
  • Structured treatment, tailored to the individual, can include individual and group therapy, mental health care, trauma services, relapse prevention, mindfulness, and meditation.
  • Safe, stable housing and medical attention can help address any problems or concerns.
  • Distraction-free environments can allow patients to step back from the stresses of everyday lives or their professional lives and focus on healing.

Outpatient care

Our outpatient care programs offer treatment for alcohol and substance abuse and co-occurring disorders, while clients can continue living at home.

This option allows individuals to have high-quality care with more flexibility to continue responsibilities at home or work. During outpatient treatment, people can attend meetings and receive therapy on-site while simultaneously applying coping skills to their daily life. 

The benefits of outpatient care are: 

  • Regular schedule of treatments, therapy, meetings, and activities
  • Relapse prevention education
  • Mental health care
  • Life skills development
  • Trauma treatment
  • 12-step meetings

Consider the facts

It’s important to consider that inpatient treatment requires a larger commitment and the ability to take time off from work and your home life. However, outpatient care typically costs less than inpatient care, but this less intensive level of treatment may not be the best choice if you have difficulty committing or require treatment for multiple disorders. 

Determining the appropriate level of care based on your specific needs is essential for recovery. The demands of being a first responder can cause many professionals to feel worn down while suffering from post-traumatic stress, anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and other mental health concerns. We are here to ensure that you receive the best possible care by tailoring treatment plans to your unique needs and goals.

About First Responder Wellness

At First Responder Wellness, we guide those ready to take the path to recovery and wellbeing. We offer various programs within a community of others who know what it is like to be in the front lines. For more information on how we can assist you, call 888-443-4898. 

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