What do you do if the very thought of talking about your anxiety with someone else makes you anxious? My guess is that you will hang on in there until it becomes impossible to ignore symptoms such as panic attacks, fear of enclosed spaces (e.g. travel on trains and planes), insomnia and lack of energy.
Are fears of being judged, shamed or made to feel inadequate getting in the way of seeking help?
‘Real Men Don’t Get Anxious!’
It is bad enough feeling anxious without the extra pressure of believing that the people around us – family, friends, society in general – expect us to manage our fears quietly, stoically and alone. In my experience, men and women tend to deal differently with anxiety that is running out of control. On the whole, women seek professional help earlier than men do. Also, I notice that women often describe being able to talk about their anxiety with friends and family. In contrast, men have a tendency to hide their fears from others. All in all, there is a general sense that being anxious is seen as more acceptable in women than it is in men.
Factors Contributing to Anxiety
For men and women, anxiety (which I tend to define as ‘fear of what might happen’) is often a sign that something needs to change in our lives. Perhaps we need to leave a job that we are unhappy in, make changes in a relationship or modify the standards we expect of ourselves to something more realistic. Excessive anxiety can also have its roots in previous experiences of trauma or distress, especially if such experiences involved a sense of powerlessness to change or influence the situation. For men in particular, factors contributing to debilitating anxiety include:
- high personal standards
- a ‘be strong’ attitude
- fear of failure
- fear of loss of face or reputation
- not talking about anxiety or seeking comfort and advice from trusted others
- self-medication e.g. drinking too much alcohol.
How Can Counselling and Psychotherapy Help?
When working with men who are trying to get a handle on anxiety, I am often told that the consultation room is the only place they feel safe enough to talk freely and openly about their fears – and that doing so gradually brings both relief and courage to make changes in their lives. This might involve acceptance of our (very human…) strengths and weaknesses, acknowledgement that we will all need help from other people at some point in our lives and, perhaps crucially, the realisation that we are not alone with our fears – regardless of our gender.
If you live or work within reach of Brighton and Hove and my approach to psychotherapy and counselling interests you, please contact me via email or telephone 07585 910742 for more information and to arrange an initial consultation. Emailing in the first instance seems to work best.
Copyright Caroline Clarke, Counselling and Psychotherapy in Brighton and Hove, Sussex.
Image courtesy of gnepphoto at FreeDigitalPhotos.net