What It’s Like Being A Man With An Anxiety Disorder
I can’t speak for every man that lives with an anxiety disorder but I’ll share how my personal life as a suffering man was in brutal honesty*
What’s it like being a man with anxiety? well, not too much different from what it’s like being a woman with anxiety. Anxiety does the same things too all of us at different rates, but I believe there are some key differences.
Hopefully, if you’re a woman, this post might help you better understand your husband or boyfriend a little better if you think they might be suffering in silence.
I draw from my own personal experience of what it’s like being a man with anxiety because it’s been at the forefront of my mind my whole life. I believe my disorder has interfered with my ideas of being a man and how to behave as a man in today’s climate.
1. He Sees Himself As Weak
I hate to use this expression because I think it’s become a cliche all in itself, but, men don’t talk about how they feel. Although I think this is changing year on year, many men still don’t talk about how they feel mentally and emotionally.
It’s a scientific fact however that being able to get rid of emotional stress by talking and being open about it can reduce your stress and anxiety significantly.
For myself, I alway felt weak on the inside, like I had no confidence and that I didn’t know how to be ‘macho’. I didn’t want to talk about how I didn’t feel good enough because that would have shown the world I wasn’t ‘man enough’.
For me, this ultimately lead to a vicious cycle of not talking and feeling worse because of it.
In society, men are trained by their environments that they should be strong, be able to hold it together and that only women can be emotionally unstable. When a man sees this image all around him, he starts to feel like he’s not good enough and that he can’t function as a man in today’s world.
2. Having Provider Syndrome
I’m coining the term ‘provider syndrome‘. It’s the anxiety brought on by being the breadwinner. When a man is suffering from an anxiety disorder and he is the main or only breadwinner, he can feel a more intense feeling of needing to keep it together.
That’s certainly how I felt for many years. Having a young child and knowing the financial pressures rested on my shoulders, my anxiety and stress shot through the roof.
As men we’re supposed to be able to go out and bring home the bacon. The problem is, the 21st century aint quite like that anymore. Zero contract hours, less work and uncertain career paths make working more turbulent than 50 years ago.
Much like a young girl might spend many days of her childhood dreaming of her wedding day, I had fantasies when I was a young boy of getting a good job, getting married and being able to get the things I wanted for me and my family the same way my parents did for me.
Times are different, things are less certain, and for a man who grew up thinking he’d get a job, get a house and coast through life, it’s a shock when it doesn’t work out that way.
With the responsibilities of family and work under his belt, a mans anxiety can be chronic when all of these factors are considered.
3. Being Stuck Between ‘Not Letting It Out’ And Masculine Pressures
Many men find themselves in between ‘not letting it out’ and modern masculine pressures. With not wanting to come off as weak in front of friends and family, many men either suppress their anxieties.
In my experiences this is dangerous. For example, because I didn’t know how to communicate how i felt with my anxiety, it came out in mood swings and aggression. I couldn’t let out how I felt so when I got upset or extremely anxious, I would lash out when it all felt too much.
I would damage things, shout and cry. I know now that this continuous behaviour doesn’t solve anything and it was only until I told someone how I was feeling on the inside that I felt some kind of release.
The problem with my anxiety was I would feel okay sometimes. All of a sudden I would switch and either lash out in anger through frustration or go into myself and be grumpy.
4. He Goes Into Himself And Becomes Grumpy
This is something that I struggled with my whole life. I would forever be dwelling on my thoughts and assumptions which would lead me to become all of a sudden grump and go into myself.
Again, I would keep it all in, mull it over, make assumption and then be off with those around me. The truth was, I’d created these scenarios myself, in my head.
I was catastrophizing everything.
It all comes back around to lack of expression and no communication with feelings.
Holding your anxiety and worries close to you allows them to boil up until they become so real to you that you start treating others differently.
I would not say that all men do this, but too many of them do.
5. You’re Supposed To Take The Lead In Any Situation
I was never super confident anyway but it’s obvious to me that men are expected to take hold of the situation when surrounded by women. That is a sad fact.
The problem is, if you’re a man with an anxiety disorder, you can stick out like a sore thumb when you don’t take hold of that situation.
Because you’re unconfident and you have the typical ‘second guessing yourself’ that comes with anxiety, it can be hard to step into that masculine role when required. Being more reserved does not help you in many social situations, but it’s the struggle of men who just can’t help but feel anxious all the time.
Being an outgoing man by nature separates you from the weak. It gets you more food and more money not to mention mates. A crippling anxiety disorder can make a man feel de-masculated and like less of a man when his anxiety holds him back from making a living, finding a mate and bringing home the bacon.
The main takeaway here is, if you’re a man, start talking about your anxiety disorder. If you’re a woman, get your man to open up. It’s only after you can face it, accept that it doesn’t make you less of a man that you can begin to ease the pressure.
Having anxiety as a man is not too different than having anxiety as a women by some of the pressures can be.
Being able to express how you feel without feeling weak or silly is the key. The truth is we all have our internal battles that we struggle with, but no one will think you are weak or less of a man for opening up.
Allow yourself to be mindful of your thoughts.
Feeling anxiety and stress is normal. When it becomes a highlight of your day to day, make sure you approach a loved one of a professional to take the load off.
Getting over the feeling of feeling ashamed and embarrassed was the biggest hurdle for me initially, but once I’d got over that, things became a lot clearer.
I hope this helped you in some way.
Here’s to your success – Sean