How Men Can Better Handle Anxiety
As many as 40 million adults in the U.S. suffer from some kind of mental illness. That’s a massive 18 percent of the population. Those suffering from anxiety disorders are six times more likely to be hospitalized for psychiatric disorders than those without disorders and three to five times more likely to visit the doctor.
Despite those frequent visits to the doctor and anxiety disorders being highly treatable, only about 37 percent of people dealing with them seek treatment. When you look at the numbers a bit closer, the outlook is even grimmer for men.
While women are nearly twice as likely as a man to be diagnosed with this condition, as many as 1 in 5 men will experience anxiety in their lives. That big disparity might have to do with the perception that men need to be tough, self-reliant, in charge and totally in control of their mental health, making it tough for men to recognize, admit and willing to seek help for their issues.
That negative stigma leads to a massive risk of suicide in men, which isn’t helped by those suffering from anxiety. Stanford associate professor and clinical researcher Carmen McLean, PhD, told Men’s Health that it all comes down to how society teaches men to socialize when it comes to mental illness. “I think the biggest thing is men are socialized not to show fear or vulnerability. Socializing to show agency and self-efficiency dissuades from showing anxiety.” McLean said, continuing by pointing out that societal stigma is a reason many men hide their issues, calling problems like anxiety “internalizing disorders.”
How To Recognize Anxiety in Men
Contrary to popular belief, high level anxiousness is more than just some sweaty palms and nerves before a big presentation. Those with major anxiety issues deal with consistent feelings of dread, worry and fear that can be so extreme it inhibits daily life.
Some commonly experienced physical symptoms of anxiety for men include pounding or racing heart, excessive sweating, muscle tension, restlessness or agitation, dizziness and vertigo, shortness of breath or choking sensations, insomnia and panic attacks.
When paired with some of the emotional symptoms of anxiousness or even hyper vigilance like constant worry about what could go wrong, feelings of dread, concentration problems, avoidance, catastrophic thinking, irritability or edginess, being overly vigilant towards danger, absentmindedness and fear of losing control, it’s easy to understand how anxiety can be so debilitating so many.
Some men have trouble doing things like public speaking, traveling in airplanes or even simple things like going out on a date due to their anxiety. A recent Columbia University survey showed that issues like anxiety lead to those suffering to be commonly single, separated or divorced.
Stefan G. Hofmann, PhD, a psychology professor at Boston University who researches anxiety, sees the root of the cause of that anxiety as a resume of societal norms. “Men are supposed to take the lead in dating,” Hofmann told Men’s Health. “The male is the one who is expected to take the first step. That puts them in a performance situation.”
If you’re trying to recognize some other tell-tale behaviors of anxiety conditions in others, look out for things like seeming angry, easily irritated and alcohol misuse. In fact, research has long shown a consistent link between abusing alcohol and mental health issues.
David Ezell, clinical director of Darien Wellness, a psychology clinic in Connecticut, told Men’s Health that alcohol is often used as a crutch to help men deal with that nervousness or anxiousness they’re feeling. “They are looking for medication,” said Ezell. “Alcohol is a very effective drug. It’s why it’s so popular.”
Recognizing some of these signs and getting help for your friend or loved one might be vital to their mental health.
How Best To Treat Anxiety in Men
There are plenty of things you can do to support a friend or loved one dealing with anxiety issues. Some of them are things like letting them know if you’ve noticed a change in their behavior, spending time talking about their experiences and letting them know you’re there to listen without being judgmental, helping them to get information from a website, library or community health center, encouraging them to get enough sleep, to exercise and to eat well and encouraging family and friends to invite them out and keep in touch, but not to pressure them to participate in activities to harshly.
While studies have shown that those who work out, eat well and interact with others often tend to be happier and healthier both physically and mentally, as well as being shown to help reduce anxiety symptoms, there’s no substitute for seeking mental health treatment.
Encourage men who are suffering to break that social stigma and seek the help they need from a mental health professional. Breaking that damaging social stigma and opening up about issues might be the key to helping them deal with their anxiety.