Teenage boys face a lot of pressure to succeed. They feel they must have very high grade point averages, be the star on the football, basketball team, at least some sport team and have a girlfriend in order to be a success in High School.
Many teenage boys are able to conform to the outdated stereotype and feel like a success in high school. This is a tremendous boost to their self-esteems and they feel like they can handle anything in life. They start viewing themselves as grown men who no longer need their parents help, because they are now men. This feeling typically last through high school and through the summer after they graduate high school. However, as freshmen in college things start to change.
When Senior boys reach college they are confronted with the fact that they are no longer the High School Star and that they need to start all over again. This is frustrating, but the problem comes when they notice many of the other freshmen are just as smart, athletic and have no problems getting dates with girls either. They find themselves at an equal level with the other freshmen guys. Therefore, in order to be the star they will need to work harder to succeed.
Many will try and many will find out they are no longer the high school star and except that fact of life. However, others have a very difficult time accepting this fact. As a result, they start on a downward spiral. They start drinking too much and skipping classes. They are looking for ways to numb out their pain. They are so ashamed that they concentrate on numbing out the pain instead of asking for help. I have worked with freshmen like this and even when you offer them help they turn it down. They feel they have to deal with the issues themselves otherwise if they need help it proves that they are a failure. They are following a pattern regarding being a man that they have learned since they were little boys. Men do not need help. If a man needs help, he is weak and not a man.
As they continue on this downward spiral, they are drinking, using drugs, missing classes and using sex to numb out their feelings. They are taking serious risks with their health, legally and with their education. Freshmen are typically 18 years old so it’s illegal to drink alcohol or use many of the drugs they are using. Additionally, as their grades drop, the college may ask them to leave school. They can also get a girl pregnant or catch an STD.
I am not the only psychotherapist who has noticed this issue with Freshmen young men. While researching this topic to develop treatment plans, I read a very helpful article. It explains the issue too and offers some clear ways that parents and friends can try to help a loved one who is in this situation. It is a mental health issue, but as we witnessed at the Tokyo Olympics, everyone has mental health issues. They are a normal part of life and when someone is struggling with an issue we need to provide help not try to shame the person. Here is the link to the article https://www.cnn.com/2021/08/17/health/college-freshman-boys-smoking-drinking-wellness/index.html.
Dr. Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating children and teenagers and trauma victims including first responders. For more information regarding his work please visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/Drrubino3 or his podcasts on Spotify or Apple.