Causes, Signs, and Treatment Options for Anxiety in Men and Boys

Let’s talk about the stigma of anxiety in men. In society, men and boys are constantly expected to be tough, emotionless, and able to battle anything. With all of this pressure surrounding strength and masculinity, it’s no secret why boys & men want to hide and suppress when they are feeling less than their best or struggling with mental illness. And even if they are able to acknowledge when they are feeling upset, nervous, or anxious, men tend to resist support.

Considering all of the changes that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused, it is more important than ever for individuals to take charge of their mental health and put their needs first. While it is easy for men to push away feelings and signs of mental illnesses like anxiety, it actually takes even more strength to do something about it. Living with an anxiety disorder can be hard, but it can still be rewarding and fulfilling. If more men are able to own their anxiety and seek out the treatment they deserve, maybe we can get one step closer to eliminating the stigma.

A group of people can only make a change and erase a stigma if they are informed about what they’re going through and how to treat it. Keep reading to learn more about the different types of anxiety, what causes anxiety disorders in men, the side effects of anxiety, how to treat it, and more. 

What Is Anxiety?

The term “anxiety” describes a variety of disorders that cause constant and overwhelming nerves or fear. A person with an anxiety disorder might also believe they are in danger, at risk, or under threat at all times. This set of mental health disorders is best known for affecting a person’s thought patterns, emotions, and physical well-being.

Women are more likely to have a diagnosis of an anxiety disorder than men. However, one in five men experience anxiety at some point in their lives. Men with anxiety may know that their brain works differently, but may have a hard time fully interpreting why they think and feel a certain way. By educating themselves about the five main types of anxiety disorders, men may have a better understanding of what they’re going through and which steps to take next.

The Different Types of Anxiety

Here are the five main types of anxiety disorders that men and boys may struggle with:

  • GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder) – GAD is characterized by chronic anxiety, worry, and tension — even when there is nothing to prompt the anxious feelings or thoughts.
  • OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) – A person who has OCD will typically struggle with ongoing unwanted thoughts and repetitive behaviors that feel out of their control.
  • Panic Disorder – Individuals with panic disorders have episodes of intense fear paired with physical symptoms like heart palpitations, chest pain, dizziness, and shortness of breath.
  • PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) – This type of anxiety typically develops after someone witnesses something terrifying or experiences traumatic events (accidents, war, abuse, etc.)
  • Social Anxiety Disorder – A person with social anxiety usually feels overwhelmed and self-conscious in social settings. They may be afraid of public speaking, insecure about small talk or engaging in conversation, or nervous about eating/drinking in front of other people.

While most people who have anxiety struggle with one of the five main types above, they might also be having anxious thoughts or feelings that don’t fit into any particular box. Some young boys, for example, may not seem anxious but deal with separation anxiety or select mutism.

What Causes Anxiety in Men & Boys?

There are many reasons that boys and men may develop an anxiety disorder, and there is not one specific cause. Many risk factors may contribute to anxiety, including other mental health issues, childhood abuse (sexual, physical), trauma, negative life events, severe illness, substance abuse, being shy, and low self-esteem. Boys and men are also more likely to have an anxiety disorder if anxiety runs in the family or if their brain chemistry is a little different.

Signs & Symptoms Of Anxiety

So how do you know if your husband, your son, your brother, or another man in your life is struggling with an anxiety disorder? While anxiety is different for everyone, there are general signs and symptoms that capture these disorders. Common symptoms of anxiety include:

  • Thought patterns and spirals
  • Avoiding feared objects or places
  • Cold & sweaty hands and feet
  • Feelings of impending doom
  • Panic, fear, & uneasiness
  • Lethargy & loss of energy
  • Changes in appetite
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Lowered sex drive
  • Inability to stay still
  • Excessive sweating
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Heart palpitations
  • Muscle tension
  • Tense muscles
  • Dry mouth
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea

Men who have an anxiety disorder may respond to these symptoms with behaviors like skipping school, not going to work, avoiding social situations, avoiding dating & relationships, abusing alcohol or drugs, displaying anger and irritability, or obsessing over status or finances.

The symptoms of anxiety can negatively affect an individual’s life, so it is important to acknowledge and work to treat them as soon as possible. If you or someone you love struggles with any or the symptoms of anxiety listed above or displays any of the signs of anxiety, it may be time to talk to a doctor about the best next steps and treatment options.

How Men & Boys Can Treat Their Anxiety

If you think you may have an anxiety disorder, you can go to your doctor to get an examination and potentially receive a diagnosis. If the doctor doesn’t have enough information to diagnose you, they may recommend a psychologist or psychologist who can help you design a personalized treatment plan. A mental health specialist or doctor will use tools to determine if you have anxiety and will recommend a combination of medication and counseling for treatment. Medications commonly prescribed for anxiety disorders include antidepressants, benzos, beta-blockers, anticonvulsants, and antipsychotics.

If you currently have an anxiety disorder, it’s important to continue learning about your mental condition and staying educated about why you’re feeling or acting in certain ways. Stick to your treatment plan as best you can and use all medications according to their prescribed dosages. Most importantly, do not mix anxiety medications with alcohol or other types of drugs.

To learn more about anxiety in men and how these disorders are treated, contact STR Behavioral Health’s team of mental health treatment specialists. Explore our locations to find a facility that meets your needs.