According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in America, affecting more than 40 million adults. Though men and women experience anxiety, anxiety in men and the way men express it is quite different than their female counterparts.
Anxiety is normal
Everyone gets anxiety. Not all anxiety is “bad” or means we have an anxiety disorder. In fact, anxiety can be very helpful in preparing us for an important project or life event. We all know that feeling we get in our stomach when we have an upcoming test or work presentation. That anxiety feeling is our body’s way of telling us we need to prepare or be ready. That is healthy anxiety. However, anxiety can become unhealthy if we ignore it or allow it to build over time. As we avoid dealing with what’s making us anxious, it can become so overwhelming we shut down. Or in the case of many men, that anxiety turns to anger. Because we live in an increasingly stressful and demanding world, it’s important that we be aware of our own anxiety levels.
How men experience anxiety
Men are generally less likely to be diagnosed with anxiety, and less likely to get treatment for it. A big reason for this is that men seek treatment less frequently and minimize their symptoms. While women are more comfortable allowing themselves to be more emotionally vulnerable, men often incorrectly see this as a weakness, feeling pressure to handle their emotions in a more masculine way. This old-school view of being a man is extremely unhealthy and may increase our anxiety.
Men don’t want to be seen as weak so they attempt to ignore or mask their anxiety. This results in men manifesting their anxiety in these ways:
- Anger and irritability
- Muscle aches and pains
- Sleeping problems
- Strained relationships
Men attempt to cope with their anxiety by:
- Alcohol and Drug Abuse
- “Bottle it up” and ignore it.
- Attempt to control others and their environment.
Men with anxiety disorders can often be aggressive rather than worrisome or nervous. They avoid emotional expression and refuse to be vulnerable, which then comes out in explosions of anger or rage. When it comes to depression, men often isolate themselves from loved ones. They also refuse to talk about their feelings and feel pressure to appear stoic.
It’s common that many of us who have an anxiety disorder also have depression and vice versa. And it’s also important to note that there are a number of different kinds of anxiety disorders. Some of the most common are:
- GAD or Generalized Anxiety Disorder – GAD is characterized by persistent and excessive worry about a number of different things, with difficulty controlling it and often expecting the worst.
- Panic Disorder – People who experience repeated spontaneous, out-of-the-blue panic attacks and are constantly worried about another attack.
- Social Anxiety Disorder – Also called social phobia, Social Anxiety Disorder is intense anxiety or fear of being judged or rejected in a social setting.
- Specific Phobias – People with phobias like a fear of heights, bugs, and new places suffer from strong, irrational fears of these and many other common (and some not-so-common) things. They will often feel powerless and actively avoid them.
- Posttraumatic Stress Disorder – More commonly known as PTSD, this disorder is a serious, potentially debilitating condition that can occur in people who have been exposed to traumatic events.
What can you do about your anxiety?
There are a number of things you can do to help with anxiety. Things like eating healthier and exercising on a regular basis. Learning to open up and talk about what’s bothering you can also help you feel more grounded and present. We suggest engaging in healthy activities that you love. Being outside, yoga, working out or hanging out with loved ones are all research-supported ways to reduce anxiety.
If you’re a man feeling like you might have an anxiety disorder or even just struggle with your anxiety, you should seek help in the form of therapy. Seeing a therapist is not a sign of weakness. Getting support is difficult to ask for, it takes strength to ask for help. In therapy, you’ll learn tools you can use to help identify the cause of your anxiety. You can also learn how to cope with anxiety, so you can live a happier and healthier life.
Take the first step today.