What is it about men that they won’t go to the doctor unless you nag them incessantly? It’s almost as though they have blinders on that allow them to ignore even the pragmatic reasons for staying on top of their mental and physical health.
It’s a little different in my situation because I’m married to a doctor who is mindful about his health, but so many of my friends vent their frustrations to me about how difficult it is to get their father or spouse to even just schedule an annual check-up.
Do you wonder why it’s such a big deal to guys, but less so for women? It took me a while to figure it out, but after years of working in the medical field, it became clear to me that a lot of this has to do with cultural messaging and stereotypes around masculinity.
Many women might remember being a teenager and having to go for that first gynecological exam, and even if it was a bit mortifying in that teenage sort of way, you’ve still probably gone every year as recommended. By virtue of our reproductive anatomy, women are introduced to annual medical appointments relatively early on and accept that it’s a normal part of life.
Not so for men…
Cultural Messaging Is at Play
Boys usually don’t go to the doctor unless they are actually sick or have a broken bone. They often learn at a young age that it’s not okay to cry or talk about their feelings and to push through pain rather than “be a wimp.” And many are encouraged to be fearlessly independent, which helps them develop a strong sense of autonomy. However, men can be very uncomfortable when something challenges this—like a doctor who might tell them that they have a health problem.Many men are taught to be fearlessly independent, which helps them develop a strong sense of autonomy. However, it can be very uncomfortable for them when something challenges this, such as a doctor who might tell them something is wrong… Click To Tweet
So for a lot of men, keeping their head in the sand seems to be a strategy for avoiding any unnecessary “threats” to their sense of masculinity and self-control—much to the frustration of their spouses!
There was a really interesting survey done by the Cleveland Clinic a couple of years ago that looked at why many men have such reservations about going to the doctor. I thought some of these stats were pretty fascinating:
Rather than going to the doctor:
- 72% would prefer doing household chores.
- 77% of married men would go shopping with their wives!
This alone tells us A LOT, and although it’s a bit humorous, it doesn’t solve the problem of how to get the important guy in your life to “man-up” and go to a doctor when he should.
3 Ways to Help Convince The Man in Your Life to See a Doctor
By being sensitive to how he probably feels about the possibility of having health issues, there are a few ways you can broach this topic and encourage him to get a check-up or treatment for what is bothering him:
- Find the right time to patiently ask questions regarding his biggest concerns about going to the doctor—i.e. getting bad news, having to be poked and prodded in sensitive places, or being told to make lifestyle changes, such as losing weight—and show empathy about his responses. It might even be helpful to share how you deal with the emotional (and sometimes physical) discomfort of the annual gyno exam. Injecting a little humor may also be useful.
- Ask your male friends about which doctors they see and get information about why they like or dislike them. This way, you can find a physician who might be a good fit for the man in your life and let him know why that doctor is highly recommended.
- Let the man in your life understand how important he is to you and your family, and that you want him around for as long as possible. So yes, a doctor could recommend a medication, lifestyle change, or maybe even suggest counseling, but all of those things can help him have a longer and fulfilling life that will allow him to be the irreplaceable part of your lives that he is.
I understand that it can be hard to convince a man to do something he’s had an aversion to for most of his life, but it is also possible to find new ways to get through to him to help him stay on top of his health. Since nagging usually isn’t an effective strategy—and stresses out both of you—looking at it from his perspective and using that insight to help him deal with his concerns and fears in a compassionate way, just might be the trick to getting him to pick up the phone and schedule that long-overdue physical!
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If you (or your significant other) are struggling and need professional help, Amen Clinics is here for you. We offer in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, remote clinical evaluations, and video therapy for adults, children, and couples. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834 or visit our contact page here.