There are a lot more open conversations about mental health disorders today, but it is still something that often goes undiagnosed or untreated in both men and women. Men are still less likely to talk about anxiety than women, and this means an increased risk for this mood disorder to go undiagnosed or even misdiagnosed.
Gender social norms such as not showing vulnerability, emotional control, and self-reliance continue to contribute to harmful consequences on men’s mental and physical health. It is important to change this narrative as this can positively influence how men express psychological distress and handle emotions.
Recognizing anxiety symptoms in men can be essential for their well-being and getting appropriate support. Anxiety disorders are one of the most frequent mood disorders experienced by men and, if left untreated, can be predictive of other disorders, including depression.
So keep reading to find out more about the difference between anxiety and an anxiety disorder and how to spot the symptoms.
In this article
Anxiety vs. an Anxiety Disorder
Feeling anxious is something that happens to most people at some point in their lives. For example, upcoming exams, medical procedures, or job interviews can cause normal levels of anxiety.
This normal level of anxiety may present in apprehension, sweating, low fear levels, or doubts about your abilities. It is important to note that these symptoms do not have a limited negative impact on your day-to-day functioning, and during times like these, feeling anxious can be perfectly normal.
Generally, low-level anxiety isn’t a bad thing; it’s an evolutionary response to a high-stress situation. Your body gets a temporary boost when experiencing stress that can help you respond faster and give your immune system a quick boost to fight off illnesses.
However, when worry gets out of control, and you find yourself constantly worrying even when there is little or no real reason for this, and you have a feeling of dread all the time that interferes with how you live your life, then you may have an anxiety disorder.
An anxiety disorder doesn’t go away when the stressful situation is over. This is one of the main ways to differentiate between anxiety and an anxiety disorder.
If you suspect you may have an anxiety disorder or simply need help managing your anxiety, you must take steps for mental health protection. If you don’t address an anxiety disorder, you won’t be able to live life to the fullest. Treating anxiety isn’t a taboo subject anymore, so don’t let doubts keep you from overcoming your anxiety.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
This is a drawn-out condition that causes extreme uneasiness over an expansive scope of circumstances and issues as opposed to by one event or occurrence.
People with GAD feel anxious most of the time and find it hard to relax. They replace one anxious thought with another, moving on to different issues quickly.
Excessive anxiety is typical of this disorder, and someone with GAD will constantly worry about things such as finances, how they will cope with difficulties that might arise, whether they might lose their jobs, how they will support their families, whether they are good enough parents, etc.
Some physical symptoms of GAD include:
- Constant tiredness
- Decrease in concentration ability
- Irritability and feeling of being “on edge”
- Easily startled
- Trouble falling and staying asleep
- General restlessness and muscle tension
- Headaches, stomach aches, or other pain that has no apparent medical cause
- Excessive sweating, feeling out of breath, lightheadedness, and heart palpitations
- Having to visit the bathroom frequently
But what causes generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)? There is likely a combination of factors that play a role; research has suggested that these may include:
- Your genetic make-up
- History of trauma exposure such as abuse, violence, etc
- Chronic, painful health conditions
- Drug or alcohol abuse
In some instances, however, there might not be any apparent reason for the development of GAD.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
OCD is characterized by having unwanted cycles of obsessions and compulsions. Obsessions are thoughts or urges that trigger feelings of distress. These obsessions can impact day-to-day life activities negatively, as they are time-consuming and accompanied by feelings such as disgust, fear, or doubt.
Compulsions are those things people do to try and get rid of their obsessions and lessen their distress. Repetitive behaviors or thoughts associated with compulsions are coping solutions that people engage in to counteract or limit their obsessions.
Compulsive behavior in people with OCD can include:
- Continuous and persistent hand washing or cleaning
- Persistent checking things like door locks or handles, whether a stove is switched off, etc
- Counting and repeating words in their head
- Persistent avoidance of certain things, such as not stepping on sidewalk cracks or only doing certain things at specific times
There is no specific, clear cause of OCD, but here are some known contributing factors:
- Biological or neurological factors
- A compound unevenness of serotonin in the mind
- Major life changes
- Behavioral factors
- Personal experiences
- Severely traumatic experiences are indicated as possible risks for the development of OCD
This disorder is characterized by regularly occurring panic attacks without a particular trigger.
A fit of anxiety is an unexpected beginning of an episode of extraordinary trepidation that triggers actual responses when there is no genuine risk or obvious reason for this.
These attacks are frightening, and this sudden overwhelming panic can cause you to feel as if you have lost all control in this situation. Although these attacks are not life-threatening, they can significantly impact your quality of life when they keep on recurring.
Panic disorder symptoms can include:
- Intense feelings of apprehension or terror
- Discomfort in the chest area or perception of irregular heartbeat
- The belief that you may be approaching death or experiencing a heart attack
- Perspiration and sudden waves of heat, or shivers and coldness
- Dryness in the mouth, difficulty breathing, or a sensation of being suffocated
- Nausea, lightheadedness, and a tendency to faint
- Tingling, numbness, or pins and needles in the fingers
- The urgency to use the restroom
- An upset stomach that is characterized by churning or a feeling of butterflies
- Persistent ringing or buzzing sounds in the ears
Some factors that play a role in panic disorders include the following:
- Certain temperaments exhibit heightened sensitivity to stress and negative emotions
- Genetic factors
- Significant stressful events
- Alterations in brain functioning
Initially, panic attacks can occur suddenly and without warning, but they often become triggered by specific situations over time.
Social Anxiety Disorder
This chronic mental condition is characterized by the experience of irrational anxiety during social interactions. Even everyday occurrences and social interactions with other people can cause severe anxiety, fear, and self-consciousness.
People who have this disorder fear situations where they may feel to be scrutinized or judged by others. Meeting new people, talking to people on the phone, having to answer questions in public, shopping, etc., are all examples of situations that can severely impact someone who has a social anxiety disorder.
Social Anxiety has physical and psychological symptoms.
Physical symptoms may include:
- Stiff or rigid body posture
- Finding it difficult to speak
- Feeling mentally blank or unable to think clearly
- Increased heart rate
Psychological symptoms can include:
- Intense worry before, during, and after social interactions
- Avoidance of social situations
- Attempts to blend into the background
- Self-consciousness and fear of embarrassing oneself
- Avoidance of certain activities that seem to be part of normal life
Recognize Anxiety Symptoms in Men
While anxiety symptoms can vary from person to person, there are some common signs to look out for.
Men experiencing anxiety may exhibit symptoms such as:
- Increased heart rate
- Muscle tension
- Digestive issues
- Trouble sleeping
However, everyone experiences anxiety differently, so you might not have these specific symptoms or only a few of them.
Look for changes in behavior or daily routines. Men with anxiety might become more irritable, restless, or have difficulty concentrating. They may start to avoid social situations or activities they used to enjoy previously.
Anxiety can manifest through emotional symptoms. Men may experience excessive worry, fear, or a sense of approaching doom. They may also have difficulty controlling their worries and may feel on edge or tense.
Anxiety can impact cognitive functions, leading to racing thoughts, difficulty focusing or making decisions, and excessive self-doubt or negative thinking patterns. They might experience intrusive thoughts or have a heightened sense of vigilance.
Unexplained Physical Complaints
Men with anxiety may have physical complaints, such as unexplained aches and pains, stomachaches, headaches, or fatigue, even when no medical condition is apparent.
Anxiety can also disrupt normal sleep patterns. Men may have difficulty falling asleep, experience restless or interrupted sleep, or wake up feeling tired.
Men with anxiety might withdraw from social activities, friends, and family. They may avoid situations that trigger their anxiety, leading to a decreased interest in socializing and isolation.
Consult with a physician if these symptoms persist, as there are a wide variety of treatments available to address mood disorders and allow you to improve your quality of life immensely.
How to Deal With Anxiety
The first step is to identify your triggers and learn how to manage them.
Have an honest conversation with yourself. Anxiety is triggered by stressful situations or occurrences, so consider what is happening in your life and what might contribute to your current feelings of anxiety.
If you can identify the stressor, you are in a position to have more control. This can be anything from your diet to your work situation, so start eliminating potential triggers to improve your mental health.
Getting enough sleep can reduce your anxiety level. To do this, you need to reach deep sleep or slow-wave sleep that occurs in the third stage of non-rapid eye movement sleep. People who have insomnia are more like to experience high levels of anxiety and stress.
Having a bath, listening to quiet music, or reading a book will help you relax before bedtime. Anxiety self-care is important when trying to limit the effects of anxiety. Limit phone, tablet, or PC time and keep to a bedtime routine, as this might also impact your sleep quality.
Exercise is important for physical and emotional health. Find something that you enjoy doing and that makes you feel calm and relaxed afterward. Try joga, horse riding, gardening, or dancing if going to the gym is not something that you enjoy.
Writing down negative thoughts or emotions is a non-threatening way to release these thoughts from your mind. If you stop your thought process and put your emotions in words, it can even help you come up with solutions that you have never thought of before.
Looking back at your progress during the period of journaling will motivate and inspire you to keep moving forward and reach your goals. This can assist with the development of communication skills and help you gain more self-confidence.
Mental Health Matters
Mental health issues are talked about more widely these days, but it’s still easy to fall into the thought process that you shouldn’t discuss your issues. When it comes to anxiety symptoms in men, it isn’t always apparent that anxiety is the root cause of these symptoms. This is why it’s so important to touch base with yourself and see what could potentially cause these symptoms.
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