Masculinity and Nonsuicidal Self-Injury

nonsuicidal self-injury

Recovery Month: Nonsuicidal Self-Injury

This Recovery Month, we’re talking about the relationship between addiction, mental illness, and self-harm – and the treatments that are available. A few weeks ago, we covered the ways in which women experience these conditions. We would now like to discuss the relationship between nonsuicidal self-injury and masculinity.

What is Toxic Masculinity?

Many people hear the words “toxic masculinity” and immediately become defensive or dismissive. In reality, this phrase serves as a shorthand for a very common social phenomenon that’s harmful to men. Toxic masculinity is a term referring to the societal pressures for men to behave in ways that are aggressive, invulnerable, and dominating.

Researchers have found that the following traits are associated with toxic masculinity’s version of “being a real man.”

Power. Some people believe that men should seek to obtain power and higher status to earn the respect of others. This can take the form of financial success or climbing the corporate ladder.

Toughness. In this school of thought, men should be emotionally unaffected, physically strong, and “behaviorally aggressive.” This requires men to pick fights, refuse to back down, and become combative (rather than seeking to understand).

No “Feminine” Qualities. Toxic masculinity urges men to push aside actions that could be construed as more feminine, including asking for help, discussing their feelings, or displaying emotion.

This last trait is the one that most predisposes young men to nonsuicidal self-injury.

What Happens When You Aren’t Allowed to Feel

The cornerstone of toxic masculinity is the complete rejection of femininity. Unfortunately, these cultural standards push men to view certain things as “for girls” – including emotions.

If you think back to your childhood, you may be able to remember someone telling you to “man up.” You may have been shot down after attempting to talk about your feelings. Eventually, this pattern of avoidance teaches boys that it is generally considered inappropriate for men to talk about their emotions.

This lesson comes with significant consequences. Men who cannot turn to others for help are unable to seek support or professional care. This increases feelings of isolation, loneliness, and helplessness. Stigma creates a painful cycle of depression and anxiety. For many people, this leads to maladaptive coping mechanisms, including:

Substance Abuse

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by your emotions. If you’re frustrated by a situation, torn up with grief, or worried about the future, it can be difficult to talk about what’s going on. This is especially true for men who have been told to keep their feelings to themselves. Men in this position may attempt to self-medicate through drinking or drug use. In a way, this is its own form of self-harm. While substance abuse may serve as a distraction, it will ultimately only worsen the symptoms of mental illness.

Nonsuicidal Self-Injury

Another negative coping mechanism is non-suicidal self-injury, or self-harm. Sometimes, a person may begin cutting, burning, or hitting themselves in an effort to release pent-up emotions. Like substance abuse, this pattern of behavior is ultimately much more harmful than helpful.

The Dangers of Nonsuidical Self-Injury

Self-harm isn’t just a poor coping mechanism; it can result in serious consequences for your physical and mental health. First, it’s important to understand that we are discussing nonsuicidal self-injury: a series of actions that are not necessarily suicidal acts. However, research has found that chronic self-harm can result in unintentional death or severe injury.

Dangers of nonsuicidal self-injury include:

  • Accidental death
  • Broken bones
  • Blood loss
  • Permanent numbness or weakness due to nerve damage
  • Injured muscles, blood vessels, nerves, and tendons
  • Loss of limbs due to infection
  • Permanent scars
  • Organ damage or failure
  • Sepsis
  • Worsened symptoms of mental illness
  • Suicidal thoughts and behaviors

In addition to causing these serious issues, self-harm doesn’t address a person’s problems. If a man cuts because of family problems or burns themselves because of untreated trauma, these difficulties will remain. This results in a cycle of nonsuicidal self-injury, brief relief, and a swift return of symptoms. For this reason, it is vital that men overcome toxic masculinity to seek professional help for substance abuse, mental illness, and self-harm.

Self-Harm Treatment in St. Augustine

At Augustine Recovery, we know what it takes to help men get well. That’s why we have created programming specific to the male experience. It is our goal to empower men of all ages to address lifelong trauma, overcome mental illness, and break the cycle of substance abuse and nonsuicidal self-injury. By offering long-term care in a communal environment, we have established a uniquely effective approach for the resolution of these difficulties.

To learn more about our men’s residential treatment program, contact our admissions team.