Anxiety disorders affect more than 40 million adults in the United States, and an astounding 264 million people around the world. It’s the most common mental health condition diagnosed today. Although women are more likely than men to have an anxiety disorder, almost 14% of men in the United States will be affected in their lifetime.
Anxiety can be different for men than it is for women in terms of signs and symptoms, causes, and which types of anxiety are most common. However, anxiety symptoms can vary for every person and may not follow according to gender. Read on to learn about anxiety symptoms in men and how it can be treated with online therapy and other methods.
The Difference Between Anxiety in Men vs. Women
Though it’s very common in both genders, anxiety can be different for men than women. It’s not fully understood why, but research has shown that there are some specific differences.
For example, women experience a higher diagnosis rate for almost all types of anxiety disorders. The exception here is social anxiety disorder (SAD), which occurs at roughly the same rate for both women and men. Women who are diagnosed with one anxiety disorder are also more likely than men to at some point be diagnosed with another mental health condition.
Another difference is between how men and women tend to deal with their anxiety. Overwhelmingly, men are more prone to turning to substance abuse, whereas women more often turn to agoraphobic avoidance.
“Men are often socialized to portray strength at all times. This can make it difficult for men to seek support in treating anxiety.”
Talkspace therapist Liz Kelly, LICSW
Signs & Symptoms of Anxiety in Men
Many people equate anxiety to having feelings of nervousness, a racing heart, or sweating, but anxiety can be much more than anxious feelings. Male anxiety symptoms can go far beyond feelings of worry or fear. There are both physical and emotional symptoms to be aware of.
Physical anxiety symptoms in men:
Excessive sweatingHeadachesA racing heartMuscle tensionOutbursts of angerFeeling restlessGastrointestinal issuesAgitationFeeling dizzy or having vertigoInsomniaShortness of breathExperiencing a choking sensationPanic attack
Emotional anxiety symptoms in men:
Feelings of dreadFrequently worrying about things going wrongAvoidanceDifficulty concentratingCatastrophic thinkingFeeling overly vigilant about the potential for dangerIrritabilityAnger EdginessFear of losing controlAbsentmindedness
“Men and women often experience anxiety in different ways. Anxiety in men may look like anger and irritability, muscle tension and physical symptoms, difficulty sleeping, and relying heavily on alcohol and other mood-altering substances to cope.”
Talkspace therapist Liz Kelly, LICSW
Causes of Anxiety in Men
Anxiety can be caused by a number of things, including work stress, family dynamics, traumatic events, and more. It also can stem from ongoing medical conditions like diabetes, heart disease, or even a natural decline in hormone levels. Low testosterone has been known to increase anxiety levels and is also a contributor to increased levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which is related to anxiety.
Types of Anxiety Men Experience
There are 5 major types of anxiety disorders, all of which men can experience.
Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD): General anxiety disorder is characterized or marked by excessively intense worry, anxiety, and stress about everyday common events. There’s no obvious or reasonable cause for the worry, but men with GAD are always anticipating the next major disaster in life. They can’t stop worrying about basic things like money, their health, family, relationships, and work.Social anxiety disorder (SAD): Social anxiety disorder results in men experiencing anxiety, fear, and avoidance that’s so intense it interferes with daily life and relationships. Men with SAD often avoid any type of social situation so they can try to thwart the fear and panic they typically experience any time they’re in social settings.Panic disorder: Panic disorder is marked by repeated episodes that are unexpected and feel like they come out of the blue. These occasions are filled with overwhelming fear and generally have physical symptoms including heart palpitations, chest pain, dizziness, shortness of breath, or abdominal pain.Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): PTSD is a condition that can result after an extremely traumatic event in one’s life. The psychiatric disorder can occur after men experience things like a very severe accident, a natural disaster, war or combat, an extremely violent and unexpected death, or other traumatic event.Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD): Obsessive compulsive disorder causes unwanted recurring thoughts, sensations (obsessions), and ideas that are so overwhelming and powerful they often drive men to repeatedly act (compulsions) in an attempt to stop their thoughts.
Anxiety Treatment for Men
When left untreated, signs of anxiety in men can be extremely painful and debilitating. There is good news, though. Anxiety is treatable. Treatment can come in the form of therapy, medication, lifestyle changes, or a combination of all of these.
“If you are having a tough time, know that anxiety is very treatable. Talking with a mental health professional can help. They can help provide insight into how the anxiety is manifesting and give you skills to learn to cope with successfully.”
Talkspace therapist Liz Kelly, LICSW
Some types of therapy work better in treating anxiety in men than others. The specific type of anxiety disorder a man is diagnosed with can determine which therapy technique might work best. In general, talk therapy (also known as psychotherapy), cognitive behavioral therapy, and exposure therapy are all effective in treating male anxiety symptoms.
Medication can be used successfully for many men who have anxiety. Before anything is prescribed, however, it’s very common for a doctor to test a man’s testosterone levels to see if testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) might be a good option for treatment. If testosterone levels are within a normal range, there are three main types of medication used to treat anxiety in men.
Like with many mental health conditions, medication can take a while to get right. Sometimes a combination of medications will work best. Other times, medication combined with therapy might be able to get the most optimal results.
Lifestyle changes like diet, sleep habits, and exercise can all be very helpful in reducing severe symptoms of anxiety in men. Meditation, breathing exercises, physical exercise, yoga, acupuncture, and a healthy diet can all potentially improve many aspects of mental health, including anxiety.
Anxiety can be overwhelming to deal with but with the right support in your life, you can learn how to deal with anxiety effectively. Whether this means seeing a therapist or talking to a doctor about medication, there is help out there to improve the symptoms and signs of anxiety in men.
If you or someone you know might be experiencing anxiety, take our anxiety test to learn more. From there, we can help get you connected with a licensed therapist for diagnosis and treatment.
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