Two men in office space

"I noticed this guy pacing by the entrance, like he couldn't decide if he wanted to stay or take off. Seemed like anxiety was playing tug-of-war within him."

All of us worry and get scared from time to time. But people who suffer from anxiety can feel consumed by fear. It can be hard for others to relate to these fears or concerns, and as a result, many of us don’t know how to best help someone with anxiety.

It’s hard to watch someone close to us experience unrelenting worry and anxiety every day, but there are things we can do to help. It starts with recognizing the signs of anxiety.

CHALLENGES TO RECOGNIZING SIGNS OF ANXIETY IN MEN

Recognizing signs of anxiety in a man can be difficult, as some men may:

  • Dismiss symptoms of anxiety as ‘normal’ feelings of stress that ‘everyone’ deals with
  • Have difficulty verbally expressing how they are feeling
  • Hide or downplay symptoms due fear of being a burden to others or being seen as not living up societal expectations for men to “tough it out”
  • Turn to self-destructive behaviours, such as drinking or taking drugs, to numb or escape from feelings of anxiety

TYPICAL SIGNS OF ANXIETY

Signs of general anxiety to look out for include:
  • Nervousness/restlessness
    • He often seems to be “on the edge” about things.
    • He seems “jumpy” and easily startled, having a tendency to overreact to minor events or changes in a situation.
    • He frequently taps his feet, paces back and forth, fidgets with his hands, bites his nails, or displays noticeable restlessness.
  • Excessive worrying, distress, or fear
    • He expresses frequent concern about various aspects of his life, often anticipating worst-case scenarios.
    • He seems to be preoccupied with “what-if” scenarios, leading to feelings of being overwhelmed and anxious throughout the day.
    • He frequently checks things, like locking doors or verifying details due to anxious thoughts about potential negative outcomes.
  • He seems to get easily fatigued
  • He seems to have difficulty concentrating
    • Sometimes appearing as if his mind ‘goes blank’
  • He is often irritable
    • He is quick to lose his temper, snaps at people
  • He shows sign of or mentions physical discomfort or muscle tension
    • Such as headaches, stomach pains, muscle tension or even chest pain.
    • May also include frequent sweating, trembling, or appearing tense (for example, clenching his jaw or grinding his teeth).
  • He mentions having issues with sleep
    • Difficulty falling or staying asleep
    • Restless, unsatisfying sleep

SIGNS THAT TEND TO BE COMMON AMONG MEN

Physical symptoms

Men with anxiety tend to report high rates of physical symptoms [1], including:
  • Headaches
  • Racing heart
  • Body tremors
  • Loss of appetite
  • Muscle tension

Anger, Irritability, and Aggression

It’s not uncommon for men who are struggling with anxiety to appear irritable and angry, including acting out their distress through aggressive behaviours.

Increased Substance Use

Men have a tendency to turn to alcohol and substance use when experiencing intense negative emotions, like anxiety,[2] as a way to numb their feelings.

Social Isolation

Men’s social isolation can emerge from the concealment of distress to others, the ideal of self- reliance and the perceived need to protect oneself from the anticipated ‘othering’ for being seen to fail to live up to normative masculine ideals such as stoicism and strength.[3]

WHAT TO DO IF YOU THINK A MAN MAY HAVE ANXIETY

When you’re concerned about a man in your life, it can be tough to know how to talk to him about your concerns. If you think he is struggling with anxiety, don’t ignore it.

1. Start a Conversation:

You don’t have to have all the answers – just being there and being supportive is what’s needed.

  • You can start with…
    • “How are you doing?”
    • “How’s life?”
    • “How’s the family?”
  • If he’s OK talking, then mention specific things that have made you concerned, such as:
    • “You don’t seem yourself – has there been something bothering you lately?”

2. Listen Non-Judgmentally

Let him share his thoughts without fear of judgment. Often, just having someone to listen can be incredibly comforting.

3. Provide Reassurance

Remind him that anxiety is a common experience, and that lots of men struggle with anxiety. Reassure him that you are there for support and that he’s not alone in facing these challenges.

4. Avoid Minimizing His Feelings

Refrain from telling him to “snap out of it” or dismissing his anxiety. Instead, acknowledge his feelings and validate his experiences. Phrases like “I can see that this is really tough for you” can be helpful.

5. Encourage Professional Help

Suggest seeking professional assistance, such as a therapist. A mental health professional can provide the appropriate guidance and support tailored to his specific needs.

6. Respect His Boundaries

Some guys may not be comfortable discussing their anxiety openly. Respect his boundaries and let him take the lead in sharing his feelings. Offer support, but avoid pressuring him to open up.

It can be uncomfortable having a conversation with someone about their mental health, but doing so could very well be the turning point for them to get the help they need to get back to being healthy and happy.


Next Step:

References

  1. Fisher, K., Seidler, Z. E., King, K., Oliffe, J. L., & Rice, S. (2021). Men’s anxiety: A systematic review. Journal of Affective Disorders, 295, 688–702. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jad.2021.08.136
  2. Men Are More Likely Than Women To Crave Alcohol When They Feel Negative Emotions. (2008, May 8). ScienceDaily.
    https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/05/080511190834.htm
  3. Ogrodniczuk, J.S., Oliffe, J.L., Kealy, D., Seidler, Z.E., Sharp, P., Rice, S.M. (2023). Silence and its manifestations in men’s mental illness. Nature Mental Health, 1, 446–448.
    https://doi.org/10.1038.

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