What does anxiety look like in men?

September 19, 2019 | by Maurice McClain, LCPC
Categories: Healthy Driven Minds

Men and women sure are different. So is the way they express anxiety.

Although men are less likely to be diagnosed with anxiety than women, and less likely to receive treatment for it, there’s no denying that they get anxious, too. They just don’t show it the same.

Emotional vulnerability — and seeking help — are often seen as weaknesses in men. While women find support from girl friends or mental health professionals, men may feel pressure to express emotions in ways that seem more masculine. They are socialized not to show anxious feelings.

As a result, anxiety in men often manifests in the following symptoms:

  • Anger and irritability
  • Headaches
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Abusing alcohol and drugs to cope
  • Strained relationships

Instead of nervousness or worry, men may display aggression, which tends to be more socially acceptable. They often avoid emotional expression and deny vulnerability. Because the anxiety isn’t expressed in a healthy way, it can come out in bursts of anger.

Similarly, depression often looks different in new dads than it does in moms. Men with perinatal depression and anxiety may distance themselves from the family, be angry and irritable, have problems sleeping, and abuse alcohol or drugs.

Nearly 9 percent of men feel anxious or depressed on a daily basis, but fewer than half take medication or seek help from a mental health professional. Men who don’t seek treatment may turn to alcohol or drugs to cope with the anxiety. Research has consistently shown a link between substance abuse and mental health disorders, particularly in men.

What’s even more concerning is that anxiety disorders are strongly associated with suicide attempts. Suicide rates are on the rise in the United States, and men are more than three times more likely to die by suicide than women.

How can you help a man who is struggling with anxiety? Here are some do’s and don’ts:

  • DON’T give an ultimatum. This can make him more reluctant to seek treatment.
  • DON’T use labels like anxiety off the bat. This could make some men uncomfortable. Try a more practical, coaching approach of short-term, goal-oriented solutions.
  • DON’T forget to be compassionate. Realize he is struggling.
  • DO point out that things could be better. Emphasize that with treatment, his quality of life could improve and he can enjoy stuff much more, have less stress at work, etc.
  • DO express your own worry about his suffering. Talk about how this is affecting you — that you are worrying about him, not sleeping well, etc.
  • DO encourage healthy living. Encourage him to exercise regularly, eat well, get enough sleep and find ways to reduce stress (would he be up for meditation?).
  • DO seek help from a mental health professional if needed. There’s no shame it it. Cognitive behavior therapy, medication and group therapy can do wonders to relieve anxiety.

About one in five men will have an anxiety disorder during their lifetime. For a man struggling with anxiety, opening up about it is an act of courage not a weakness. Help is available so you can get back to enjoying life.

Explore behavioral health resources, or call 630-305-5027 for a free behavioral health assessment.

Related blogs:

New dads can get the baby blues, too

15 simple stress busters you can do today

Learn more from Healthy Driven Chicago:

Men: It’s time to own your health

Getting help for depression

Suicide warning signs

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