Women are more prone than men to develop anxiety and anxiety disorders. One recent study found that the lifetime prevalence rate for any anxiety disorder is 30.5% for women and 19.2% for men. Nonetheless, this same study also shows that men definitely do develop anxiety and anxiety disorders,
Anxiety is always a serious and potentially debilitating problem. But anxiety in men may be especially problematic because men are less likely to seek help, and far less likely to understand how important it is to combat their anxiety issues. This article explores anxiety as it relates to men, including treatment recommendations.
Men Don't Always Own Their Anxiety
While many men are aware that anxiety disorders exist, very few realize how often it affects them. Often men refuse to admit to themselves they can have a mental health issue, seeking other forms of treatment or drowning their anxiety out with poor coping behaviors rather than admit to the issue.
The reason men will often deny their anxiety and avoid seeking help for it is that men are often ashamed of their anxiety, whereas women are far less likely to feel ashamed of their anxiety.
Men are apt to feel ashamed of their anxiety because men are taught in many cultures that they are supposed to be brave and fearless. Men are also taught that they are not supposed to be vulnerable. In this context, it is easy for a man to see himself in a negative light if they suffer from an anxiety disorder; and this will lead them to not seek help.
To a man who is suffering from anxiety, I would say please don’t judge your anxiety and try to deny that you are having anxiety. That will only make things worse. If you accept your anxiety as it is, and seek help, there’s a much better chance that your resolve itself and disappear..
Types of Anxiety in Men
Men can suffer from every single type of anxiety disorder, as well as minor anxiety that is disruptive but doesn't otherwise qualify as an anxiety disorder. Not only are men prone to:
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder
- Panic Disorder
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Men often struggle with performance anxiety and specific issues that relate to shyness and masculinity. In some cases, the anxiety can actually be worse than it is with women because women are more likely to seek out support in others in a way that men aren't. Men may be a bit less likely to develop anxiety, but they are far more prone to several anxiety mistakes.
Common Male Anxiety Mistakes
Mistakes are a common problem with anxiety, and unfortunately men are extremely prone to making some very common anxiety mistakes. A small sample of these mistakes includes:
- Denying Your Anxiety Denying your anxiety will only make it worse. Fighting and denying your anxiety in the name of "toughing it out" won’t work because it doesn’t deal with the underlying psychological causes of your anxiety. Anxiety creates negative feelings and physical symptoms, and trying to deny it can actually create more stress that increases the risk of future anxiety. On the other hand, if you are in a life or death situation, and your anxiety is getting in the way of dealing with the situation, by all means, grab yourself by the scruff of the neck and squelch your anxiety by slowing your breathing down and focusing on the task and situation in front of you.
- False Coping Strategies Men are also more likely to develop unhealthy coping strategies. For example, drinking alcohol, gambling, and various reckless behaviors can actually dull anxiety temporarily. But they also become a dependency, so that eventually you will find yourself in trouble in your life, which will only cause more anxiety.
- Thinking too Much About Why You are Anxious Because many men are ashamed of being anxious, they aren't likely to reach out to others when they're stressed, and many prefer to relax alone with their own thoughts. If you ruminate and think a lot about your anxiety, that will only make it worse. Anxiety isn't the type of condition where moping and trying to think things over is generally helpful. One strategy might be to surround yourself with people you love and enjoy and in this way distract yourself from thinking about your anxiety. Another strategy might be to get busy and do something constructive. Figure out for yourself what is the best strategy for you.
Tips to Overcome Anxiety in Men
After you have admitted to yourself that you have a problem with anxiety, there are basically three categories of things you can do to help reduce your anxiety:
- Reduce your anxiety by improving the day to day quality of your life
- Learn how to meditate or take a mindfulness training
- Go into cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
Here a few ways that you can help yourself cope with your anxiety before you seek out help
- Accept Your Anxiety Without Believing It Accept your anxiety in the sense that you don’t try to push it away and pretend it is not there. But at the same time don’t believe your anxious and fearful thoughts. Know that they are anxiety driven thoughts, and don’t allow them to create your state of mind.
- Get Regular Exercise This is a must do. Exercising will release your anxious energy.. It will also cause the release of endorphins that will make you feel well. Make sure you stay active to cure anxiety. Exercise will reduce your anxiety and that is why it is worth doing; but it will not cure the psychological cause of it.
- Stay Busy Similarly, make sure that you are staying as busy as possible with things you enjoy. Set goals, play sports, do things that you need to get done and do things that you like to do. Most of all do things that will make you be present in the moment. The more active you are, the more likely you are able to stop thinking about the things that are causing your stress.
- Hang Out With People You Enjoy and Love Find positive influences in your life that you can talk to openly, without worrying about being judged. Talk with people who really care about you - male, female, family, friends, etc. - and someone you can talk to about anything. With panic attacks, for example, the more you are "inside your own head" the more severe the panic attack often is. Talking to someone openly can reduce your sense of shame and also reduce the likelihood of over-focusing on your anxiety.
One of the most important things you can do to reduce anxiety is to accept it, and to seek help if you can’t find ways to cope with it yourself.
Suffering from anxiety does not mean you are a bad person. It is something that you didn't cause, and it is something that can be cured. And accepting your anxiety and in general yourself, will go a long way towards helping you reduce your anxiety.