Andrea Peterson, a successful science and health reporter at The Wall Street Journal, has written extensively and compellingly about anxiety, a condition she has lived with most of her life. For those who have had a panic attack, the symptoms will be familiar---a racing heart, shortness of breath, blurry vision, and various other symptoms that often cannot be explained by the circumstances. Recently, she has written about anxiety in men, pointing out that the condition often looks very different in males. "Instead of coming across as nervousness or worry, anxiety in men often appears as anger, muscle aches or alcohol use---leading many men to go undiagnosed."
Anxiety is a normal human emotion and to the degree that it serves to motivate humans to action, a certain amount of anxiety is a good thing. It becomes a disorder when it interferes with daily life---your work and your relationships. Though women are twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, researchers suspect the disparity may, in part, be due to under-reporting by men. They believe guys feel pressured to exhibit anxious feelings in ways that disguise the discomfort. Because the signs of anxiety can be subtle, and because there is a recognized link between severe, chronic anxiety and suicide, it's important to recognize symptoms of anxiety disorders specific to males.
5 Common Anxiety Symptoms in Men
• Anxious Men Complain of Physical Ailments. A man who is feeling anxious may have frequent head-, stomach or muscle-aches, symptoms that can easily be associated with other things, including exercise and the common cold. The aches could be purely psychosomatic, that is caused or aggravated by mental stress. They could also signal too much physical exercise, if the exercise is an attempt to mask the underlying anxiety.
• Anxious Men May Abuse Alcohol and Drugs. Men drink and use drugs to relieve anxiety more often than women. Research has consistently shown a link between substance abuse and mental-health disorders, particularly in men.
• Anxious Men May Seem Angry. Anxiety is often associated with fear, and fear is considered by many to be the opposite of anger, but people can experience profound anxiety as a result of their anger episodes. They fear losing control and feel powerless in the wake of a sudden outburst. Also, an angry man is often seen as more acceptable than a fearful one. "I think anger is considered decisive," says David Ezell, clinical director of Darien Wellness, a psychology clinic in Connecticut.
• Anxious Men Fear Dating. Men with social-anxiety disorder are more likely to fear dating and are more commonly single, separated or divorced, according to an analysis of survey information from Columbia University. Because men are typically expected to take the lead in our dating culture, men are exposed to evaluation and rejection, both highly anxiety-inducing prospects.
• Anxious Men Have Strained Relationships. In another study of survey data from Columbia University, men were more likely than women to experience relationship strain from worrying.
How to Tackle the Problem
The best treatment for anxiety is one that is tailored to you. Several steps can begin the process, including a thorough physical examination to rule out conditions like hypertension and diabetes that can cause similar symptoms. Certain medications, on a time-limited basis, can treat anxiety disorders. Seek a doctor's advise, because some medicines, like Valium, can be habit-forming. Develop sound stress-management habits: eat and drink sensibly, get plenty of sleep and exercise in moderation. Equally important, find a good listener---someone to talk to when the anxiety surfaces.
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• Providers are beginning to bridge the gap between medical and mental care, forming partnerships aimed at improving patients' physical and mental health, and reducing costs at the same time. Such holistic projects are underway in numerous states, including California, New York, Washington, and Florida. Learn More
• How Confident Are You? Men tend to overestimate their abilities by some 30% according to a Columbia Business School study. By comparison, women tend to underestimate their abilities and it is holding them back. Many psychologists believe that, on balance, a bit of over-confidence in life is better than a bit of under-confidence because it propels us to try things, to take action and to live a more fulfilled life. Take the Confidence Code Quiz