Did you know that women are twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with anxiety, but that does not mean that women are twice as likely as men to suffer anxiety? A lot of men may have anxiety, but they don’t seek help or the doctor doesn’t pick it up.
What is anxiety?
Anxiety is the most common mental health condition in Australia. It is characterised by intense, excessive and persistent worry and fear about everyday situations. It can cause fast heart rate, rapid breathing, sweating and tiredness.
Severe anxiety covers a range of disorders including generalised anxiety disorder, social phobia, specific phobia, obsessive compulsive disorder, panic disorder, separation anxiety disorder, agoraphobia and post-traumatic stress disorder.
- Excessing worrying: the worrying is not in proportion to the events, and people with anxiety become upset by normal, everyday situations
- Feelings of agitation: people with anxiety get so upset their body reacts and they experience a racing pulse, sweaty palms, shaky hands and a dry mouth.
- Restlessness: people with anxiety have trouble relaxing and sitting still. They feel constantly on edge and need to keep moving.
- Tiredness: phases of anxiety, restlessness and movement will often be followed by times of fatigue.
- Trouble concentrating: people with anxiety are so caught up with their worries that they struggle to concentrate. They are restless and then tired, and just don’t have the energy to really focus properly.
- Irritable: people with anxiety are often short-tempered with others, as they are struggling to cope with their life.
- Tense muscles and difficulty sleeping: People with anxiety can experience many physical symptoms, even hair loss.
- Panic attacks: about a quarter of people will experience a panic attack in their life, but 3 per cent of people will experience ongoing panic attacks and be classified as having a panic disorder.
- Avoid social situations: people with anxiety may avoid social gatherings because they fear being judged or feeling embarrassed.
Men may have different symptoms
New research has found men can have very different anxiety symptoms to women. There are lots of different categories of anxiety disorders. Social anxiety disorder is the most common and men and women are equally affected by this, but for general anxiety disorder, specific phobias and panic disorder, women are more commonly diagnosed however the experts know thatmen struggle with fear and depression, so why aren’t men being diagnosed in equal numbers? Mental health researchers suspect that men’s anxiety is more likely to come out as anger and aggression.
I am not excusing men but when a man explodes in anger over something seemingly insignificant, he could be suffering from anxiety.
Psychologists are convinced anxiety problems can appear differently in men to women. Traditionally when we think of anxiety we think of people who worry excessively and avoid social situations, but men are more likely to complain of headaches, difficulty sleeping, and muscle aches and pains. They are also more likely to use alcohol and drugs to cope with anxiety. American clinical psychologist Kevin Chapman says anxious men can present as loose cannons.
“Aggression tends to be more socially acceptable to many men than anxiety so that might be why men are not being diagnosed,” he said.
What happens when men don’t get help for anxiety?
Unfortunately men are four times more likely than women to take their own lives. Researchers see a strong link between anxiety, aggressive behaviour and substance abuse. Men are less likely than women to seek treatment for all mental health conditions including depression and anxiety.
Anxiety is a human emotion, but it becomes a disorder when it is constantly interfering with a person’s work, relationships and enjoyment of life.
Treatment for anxiety
In Australia psychologists treat anxiety using cognitive behavioural therapy, which teaches patients to alter problematic thinking that fuels anxiety and to actively approach situations they fear and antidepressant medications such as Prozac and Lexapro.
Sometimes men will seek treatment for anxiety after a work crisis or if their partner encourages them.
Can men be convinced to get help for anxiety?
The experts say the worst thing a woman can do to man suffering anxiety is to deliver an ultimatum: get help or I’ll leave you. That can lead to a power struggle within the relationship and increase a man’s reluctance to get help.
Psychology professor Dean McKay says instead wives or partners should highlight that their quality of life is suffering and they are suffering too.
Tell your man that with treatment he’ll enjoy life more and you will be able to enjoy each other more.
Above all, be compassionate and be slow to judge. You might think your guy is just being a stubborn man, but remember they are a person with anxiety struggling with their own and society’s expectations of men.
Also don’t label your guy and diagnose him, telling him that he has anxiety or depression. Many men are uncomfortable discussing their emotions and using terms such as anxiety and depression. Just tell him that strong people have the courage to reach out for support and seeing a psychologist is a type of ‘coaching’ for life.
Tell your other half that he needs to invest in his health – his mental health – and it’s probably cheaper than a golf lesson!
Yoga, body balance or mindfulness can also help
Mindfulness, yoga, body balance gym classes and meditation can also help relieve anxiety in men who are feeling a lot of frustration and anger.
Meditation slows you down and encourages you to think about your life choices. Another option for a man with depression is group therapy, but look for a group that is geared towards men, not women because as you now know, guys experience anxiety differently to women and it needs to be treated differently!
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ABOUT PAT MESITI
Pat Mesiti is a best-selling author, coach and educator in the area of personal development. Having built some of Australia’s largest people-driven organisations, Pat understands the power of harnessing human potential. He has shared the stage with some of the world’s great business minds and has sold over millions of copies of his books and materials.