Other posts in this series: depression, stress, and PTSD
This is second in our series of four posts for Men’s Health Month, which is designed to enrich men’s wellness and health. In our last post, we considered some aspects of depression relating to men’s health, which showed that depression and anxiety often go hand in hand. In this post, we will help you understand the symptoms of anxiety, some treatments, and some tips for coping with anxiety as they relate to men’s health.
What is anxiety?
All of us feel anxious or a little nervous now and then. You know, the apprehension we feel before speaking in public or performing in front of an audience, (re)entering the dating scene, stretching our finances, or going for a job interview.
These things can be scary, but those kinds of feelings usually disappear soon after the stressful event is past. That kind of anxiety may be good in small doses, often making you sharper at the moment.
Now imagine feeling nervous and on edge constantly, worrying that something bad is on the horizon. You cannot rest or relax. You close out friends and family. Well, according to the Men’s Health and Resource Center, “That’s what life is like for the 40 million American adults who suffer from anxiety disorders.” Statistically speaking one in six men will experience anxiety in their lifetimes, and yet they report a rate of half of what women experience. 1
Symptoms of anxiety in men
Feelings of fear, impending doom, or near constant worry that interferes with work and relationships or your ability to sleep are all signs of anxiety. “While men may recognize these changes when they occur, they may not know the root cause, or if they do, what they can do about it,” says Darshan Mehta, medical director of the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital. Dr. Mehta suggests, “A therapist can help identify the source of your problems and then help resolve them,” once you recognize these symptoms.
The place to start is with your personal physician, “tell them how you feel, and your symptoms. He or she will no doubt know therapists who can help with your specific issues. There are other places to start beside your primary care doctor, too. For example, many employee health care plans offer confidential helplines where you can ask questions and find therapists in your network. Another source is the National Alliance on Mental Illness Helpline (1-800-950-6264).”4
Several standard approaches have proved effective:
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, which helps the patient understand and change thinking and behavioral patterns.
- Medication prescribed by your own doctor or nurse practitioner, treatment medications are generally safe and often used in conjunction with therapy.
- Complementary and alternative treatment—stress and relaxation techniques, meditation, yoga, and acupuncture
- Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation is sometimes used for those who do not respond well to medication.
Tips for Coping With Anxiety
Katharina Star, PhD explains, “When anxiety affects one’s relationships, work performance, and other areas of life, there is potential that these anxious feelings are actually an indication of a mental health illness.”5 She offers four simple steps to coping with anxiety.
1- Stop and take some deep cleansing breaths. Become “mindful of the present moment,” not the past and not the future. Make this your mantra as you breath in and out: “Be Present.” She promises, “anxiety loses its grip when you clear your mind of worry and bring your awareness back to the present.”
2- When you begin to sense the physical symptoms listed above, it is time to figure out what it is that is bothering you. Star recommends making “it a habit to regularly uncover and express your feelings of anxiety.
3- Make a proactive choice to either deal with it or let it go. When you do she says, “you can feel like you have a bit more control over your situation.”
4- Focus on something that is more soothing like taking a walk, listening to music, do something creative, catch up chores, and pray or meditate, she suggests.6
What your suggestions for coping with anxiety? Tell us in the comment section below.
1Men and Anxiety, Anxiety Canada
2Anxiety and depression in men, Better Health Channel
3Matthew Solan, What men can gain from therapy, Harvard Men’s Health Watch
4Facts and Statistics, Anxiety and Depression Association of America
5Katharina Star, PhD; Simple Steps to Help You Cope With Anxiety,