While everyone may experience the issues mentioned in this article, please note that as part of our initiative responding to the APA Guidelines for Psychological Practice with Boys and Men (2018), these articles will focus on how these topics affect boys in honor of men's health month. We use these gender terms to refer to people who identify as male.
Content Warning: The following article discusses substance use and overuse. If you or a loved one are experiencing substance use disorder or suspect that you or they might be, the SAMSA National Hotline can be reached 24/7 at 1-(800)-662-4357.
You and your buddy pull up to a red light. The man in the vehicle next to you floors his engine—your buddy eggs you on to race him. When the light turns green, you stop thinking and punch the gas.
Most men and young adults have found themselves in similar situations. Despite the potential negative consequences, they are more likely to engage in risk-taking behaviors than women, perhaps due to traditional masculinity standards.
Risk-taking behavior has been described as engaging in risky behaviors consciously or unconsciously with a perceived uncertainty about its outcome or benefits.
Risk-taking behavior comes in different forms and degrees of severity. Oftentimes for young men, risk seeking behavior is due to a heavy workload and other feeling stressed within their situation. The activities vary from person to person but can include:
These are only a few ways that harmful risk-taking behavior can manifest. Not every person will engage in every activity listed above. Some males might engage in more activities than others, and some might only engage in one behavior. But why do they tend to be more prone to taking risks than women, and what role does it play in their lives?
There are many answers and schools of thought regarding this question. It comes down to biological, psychological, and social reasons.
Risk-taking behavior has been linked to higher levels of testosterone and the development of the frontal lobe. Due to the surge of testosterone during puberty, young boys are more likely to take risks than young women. It’s important to note that, on average, the frontal lobe develops later in life for men compared to women. The frontal lobe plays a key role in the evaluation of rewards and associated risks.
Risk-taking behavior is not only linked to men’s biology but social factors as well. As a man, you are often required to prove yourself and become “something.” This is partly due to gender differences and the idea of traditional masculine roles. For example, in the past, males were valued in society if they were breadwinners.
Becoming “something” can be as innocent as being peer pressured to jump into the swimming pool’s deep end for the first time. On the other end of the spectrum, young males can find themselves in situations that might engage in criminal activity, violence, or substance use.
Although it can be tricky to balance these social and biological risk factors, there are health risks that may result in serious injuries and emergency department visits to look for as well.
You may feel pressured or forced to prove yourself, whether in the form of peers or romantic interests. This pressure could cause you to act out and engage in potentially harmful activities. How can you take this energy and channel it into something productive?
Extreme Sports such as rock climbing, snowboarding, or even skateboarding are all examples of healthy risks. In a controlled environment, sports can give you a rush, a source of competition, and a way to prove yourself.
For some, meeting new people can be seen as a risk. To meet new people, you have to put yourself out there and take a chance. Meeting new people can be an effective way to build confidence and develop a new sense of competence.
To achieve either of these goals, you have to prove yourself and compete. These achievements make an excellent way of seeing what you’re made of and gaining acceptance from peers.
This is another way to seek out healthy thrills and excitement. When you travel, you are broadening your horizons and getting out of your comfort zone. Traveling can lead to many new and exciting situations.
Again, risk-taking behavior isn’t all bad. Without a little bit of risk, we would’ve never landed on the moon or developed the internet. Risky behavior can be crucial to developing yourself and society. A great way to start taking healthy risks is by facing your fears. Whether it’s approaching men and women you’re interested in, starting a business, or even trying new food, there are many ways to seek healthy risks. The dangers lie when you start using harmful risks as a coping mechanism.
In general, both adolescents and older adults can run into using risky behavior as a coping mechanism. This behavior can include alcohol intoxication, unprotected sex, and dangerous physical stunts.
Most men tend to use these harmful risk-taking behaviors as a way of avoiding and managing stress by distracting themselves with this process of "sensation seeking". They are often solution-oriented; they sense a problem and seek to solve it. The problem lies when they don’t factor in the long-term consequences for the immediate results.
All young people will face difficult situations and stress. The key here is to find healthy ways to manage this stress.
There are different styles of dealing with stress and difficult situations. They should try
As mentioned earlier, males are often solution-oriented. When facing stress or a problem, try solving it instead of running from it. Consider addressing the root of the problem and facing it head-on. For example, you may realize the cause of some higher risk, negative behavior is a lack of confidence. To face this head-on, you would identify why you feel unconfident, the areas you need to develop confidence, and create a plan to get there. Alternatively, you can find the benefit and silver linings of your tricky situation. Try asking yourself what you can learn or gain from your stress or problem.
This list barely scratches the surface when it comes to dealing with stress and difficulties. Remember that even though a harmful risk might work in the short term, it won’t work in the long run. To manage and deal with stress, you need to tackle the problems head-on. Focus on how you can solve the problem or root cause of your stress. Try using some of the healthy coping mechanisms listed above to give you more energy when facing difficulties.
Due to men’s tendencies to seek out high risk activities for the reasons mentioned above, men are more likely to develop substance use disorder. Substance use in males is twice that compared to women.
Social pressure, biological and psychological factors are all at play here. Men often have a hard time finding the help and leadership they need. This difficulty can result in them seeking alternative options, such as substance use, to overcome their problems.
Men face more risk due to social pressures as well. Most of them have been in a situation where their peers have egged them on to drink more. This social pressure results in males taking more risks and potentially developing problems they might be unaware of.
There are also biological factors, as reported on by the Centers For Disease Control And Prevention, to consider as well. Since men are typically larger than women and testosterone is linked to metabolizing substances more quickly, they require more substance to get the same effects. This size difference is especially true with alcohol. This size difference can cause males to consume more substances and develop a reliance faster than women.
If you find yourself taking harmful risks and engaging in dangerous behavior, you can solve this problem. Most men want to test their limits and see what they’re capable of; the key here is not to overdo it in a harmful way. If your risk-taking behavior starts impacting your everyday life, this could be a significant predictor of bipolar disorder, which tends to emerge during young adulthood.
Shifting your attitude, behavior, and even social circle can make a dramatic difference. Try considering the consequences of an action or behavior. Think things through and don’t partake in a harmful activity to prove yourself to anyone.
Finding a leader or mentor to guide you through some of your decisions is another excellent option. When you find the right health care mentor, everything will fall into place. Here’s an example of one man who sought mentorship through BetterHelp.
“Whatever I say here, it won’t do justice to the professionalism or Dr. Kevin. He is an amazing human being, on top of his professionalism. He understood me every concern, the slightest details of my worries. I can’t thank him enough for the work he did with me so far. I was almost a dead man walking, and Dr. Kevin addressed my issues so competently to the point that he made me believe that life is worthy of living it when one handles issues the proper way. Dr. Kevin is now a part of my life. I believe that I haven’t been the easiest and the most obedient client he probably had until now. But he made a hopeless man feel alive again. The journey is not over yet for me. And there is no better commander out there than Dr. Kevin, who would fight for you. Thank you, Dr. Kevin.”
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Why Are Men More Likely To Take Risks?
There are many different reasons men are more likely to take risks: social, biological, and psychological reasons. For example, men tend to have more testosterone than women, which is linked to risk-taking behavior.
Why Are Men More Likely To Develop Substance Use Disorder?
Men are more likely to develop Substance Use Disorder compared to women due to a variety of reasons. These reasons can include social pressure, social norms, inadequate leadership, environment, and even genetics.