How Social Anxiety Manifests in Men
Social anxiety manifests differently in men compared to women, and it's essential to recognize the signs for more meaningful communication. While social anxiety, and anxiety in general, are often associated with women, statistics show that twice as many women struggle with it than men. However, men also grapple with anxiety, but their expressions of it are frequently ambiguous and misunderstood, leading to conflicts and relationship strain. Below are common ways in which men cope with anxiety and exhibit signs of struggle.
Increased Anger: Men are more prone to anger as a manifestation of anxiety when compared to socially anxious women. While women might cry or seek support from friends or counselors, many men express their anxiety through hurtful words, door-slamming, emotional shutdowns, and withdrawing from relationships. Societal conditioning often encourages men to keep their emotions bottled up until they explode through actions.
Substance Use: Men are more inclined than women to resort to alcohol or non-prescription drugs as a means of alleviating anxiety and bolstering their courage. They may use alcohol as a social lubricant to engage with new people. If you're in a relationship with a man who uses alcohol or illicit drugs, it could be a sign of underlying anxiety or depression that needs addressing.
Inadequacy Concerns: Men often grapple with anxiety related to feeling inadequate in terms of their achievements, more so than women. This is particularly prevalent in a society where men are expected to provide for their families and excel professionally. While gender roles have evolved to involve women in providing for the family, the expectation for men to be ambitious and competitive at work remains deeply ingrained. Many men harbor feelings of inadequacy and stress over not meeting their self-imposed expectations, often keeping these worries to themselves.
Anxiety about Singleness: Men who remain single beyond a certain age can experience heightened anxiety. However, their anxiety often revolves around the expectation that they must take the initiative in relationships. The pressure of sending the first message or arranging the first date can be intimidating. This anxiety extends to online dating, where men often initiate contact and compete with other profiles for attention. Encouraging men to open up about their feelings can mitigate these effects, as keeping emotions to oneself can lead to misunderstandings, making them appear aloof, disinterested, or arrogant. Vulnerability and sharing feelings about anxiety can foster closer relationships and greater trust.
If you're a man struggling with social anxiety, remember that you don't have to endure it alone. Consider implementing the following suggestions for positive change:
Acknowledge Your Anxiety: There's no shame or weakness in admitting you have anxiety; in fact, talking about it diminishes its power over your life.
Normalize Anxiety: By discussing your anxiety openly, you help destigmatize the idea that men can also experience anxiety, reducing the pressure to be perfect and alleviating anxiety.
Communicate with Your Partner: Share with your partner the behaviors or actions that make you feel safe. This will provide comfort to your partner and foster trust in the relationship.
Open Up to Trusted Individuals: Speak with close friends, family members, or a trusted confidant about your anxious thoughts and feelings. Opening up to others often reveals shared experiences, making you feel less isolated.
Seek Professional Help: If anxiety significantly limits your life, consider consulting a therapist who can assist in developing coping strategies. If necessary, they can guide you toward a mental health treatment plan, including medication if appropriate.
Dealing with social anxiety is a lifelong process, and while it may not disappear entirely, you can learn to manage it effectively and create a safe space where you can be your authentic self, loved, and accepted just as you are.