Guys: Are You Suffering From Anxiety? Here's How To Tell

A look at anxiety and how although women are often thought of as sufferers in our society, why it's important not to leave the guys out. 

I received a contribution towards the cost of producing this post from Kalms, to help me spread the word about male anxiety in our society. We thank them for their support. 

You know what I hear a lot of? 

I hear a lot of women admitting that they're anxious in their relationship, or worried about their work or home life. I hear a lot of men saying that their female partners and family members are worriers, while they shrug their shoulders. And according to statistics, women are often more than twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with an anxiety related disorder. 

But it's not only women that feel anxiety. Men feel it too. 

Photo by Fachry Zella Devandra on Unsplash

Did you know that according to research carried out by Kalms Lavender, 70% of young men's work performance and relationships are affected by their anxiety? And 80% of young men also found that anxiety affects their social life? The stats show it's happening, but we're not hearing about it very often, which means it's not being talked about freely. In fact, research suggests that over half of men who say their anxiety affects them admit that they're not getting help. This needs to change.  

It's about time that we recognised that anxiety is not largely a female condition in our society. Dads don't have to puff up their chests in the school playground at home time and pretend that they're not really feeling anxious about work, or home life. Men in offices, on building sites, in restaurants and coffee shops, in shopping centres and in train stations - men everywhere - should be able to feel that they can speak freely about anxiety. Because, judging from my experience, it really, absolutely helps to talk about it. This whole 'manning up' thing? Nah. 

So, what's anxiety, anyway? 
Anxiety is described as 'a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease about something with an uncertain outcome.'

Anxiety is normal in small amounts (if we didn't have it, we wouldn't know what to do if a tiger chased us), but in larger amounts it can swamp your thoughts and affect your life. When I suffered with it, I definitely didn't live my life to the fullest. I'd spend hours worrying, going over 'worst-case' situations in my mind, visualising the worst and trying to come up with actions I could take now to make sure those imagined scenarios would never happen. Now I look back at what I could have been doing instead: watching a funny film, enjoying tea with friends, baking a cake with my kids... but it's easier with hindsight, isn't it?

Whether you're male or female, if you're feeling apprehensive, worried, and uncertain and you can't pinpoint the cause of it all - you need to take action. 

How is worry different from stress? 
Stress is usually a focused anxiety about something that's happening now. With anxiety, you're preoccupied with uncertainty rather than something concrete that you can do now

As in: "I'm so stressed about these reports I need to get written this week, I'm going to have to work some extra hours and get it all done by Friday." That's stress. 

If you're suffering from anxiety it will sound something a bit more like this: "All these reports I need to write. What if I can't do them? What if my manager hates them and makes me do them again? What if I get fired? I might need to look for a new job. What if I can't get a new job?...." 

See the difference? That used to be my internal dialogue most of the time, and that's when I knew I needed to go and get some help. The worst thing about anxiety is that you'll finish the reports, all will be good, and you'll most likely latch onto something else to be anxious about. In the end, I helped myself with home-based remedies and referred myself for CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy). 

Within a few months I was pretty much anxiety-free. 

What does anxiety feel like? 
Anxiety can feel psychological (dreading social situations, nervousness, fear, cycles of worrying, mental tension) or physical. Physical signs can range from butterflies in your tummy to a decreased sex drive, or you might feel like your muscles are tighter and more tense than usual. When I'd been having an episode, I always ended up at the doctor's office with shoulder or neck pain - I was tensing up and not realising it. Have a look at the video below from Kalms for more signs and symptoms of anxiety.

So, what can you do? 
First of all, if you've been feeling like this for some time, make an appointment with your GP. There are lots of options for you. It's a myth that they'll just automatically put you straight onto medication - they'll take your case as an individual and figure out the best treatment for you. It might involve counselling or a talking therapy, like I had. Also, don't think that they'll tell you you're being silly and to go home and get on with it. Around 1 in 4 of us, male or female, lives with an anxiety related condition, so you're definitely not alone, and doctors are used to it. Honestly. I cried in the surgery when I spoke to my doctor. She handed me a tissue and we put a plan into action while I sniffed and sobbed into it. I felt much better when I left. 

You can also try some things at home, alongside seeing your doctor. Enjoying time with your friends is good and can help take your mind off any negativity you're experiencing, even temporarily. I'd go for a walk in nature, or play my favourite music (turning Aerosmith up really loud was a favourite).  Try some deep breathing to help you relax, or yoga or meditation. You can get apps and CDs that help guide you through short meditations so you don't need to do any actual thinking. 

Another good tip is to write your worries down. Even now, if I feel myself getting anxious, I'll write my anxieties down and then ask myself if they're actually realistic thoughts. Usually that calms me down. And to stop you worrying at night, make a list of them if you have to, before you go to bed, because you can even feel anxious about forgetting the things you need to worry about! I know, I've done it. 

Kalms do have a daily journal that you can start to keep - have a look at the outline below - to help you see any patterns or triggers or to help you start to take a proactive attitude to your anxiety. 

But remember, these things might help ease your anxiety - but if you've been feeling it for 2 weeks or more, do make an appointment with your doctor. You'll be glad you did, promise.

Men, we hear you. It's very common to suffer with some anxiety. If you feel as if it's taking over your life though, then do talk about it.  See your GP. Talk to friends and family that you trust. Sleep well and eat well, even if you don't feel like it. It's a really good thing to be able to talk to someone about your anxiety, so do. No one will think it's nothing, and no one will tell you you're being sensitive. It's a proper, real thing.  

Check out the video by Kalms and the infographic below for more details on anxiety-related facts, and do have a look at the Kalms website too, for more information on helping to manage anxiety. 

Good luck!