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Anxiety Looks Different in Men

About half of my practice is comprised of men dealing with anxiety.

Which is a little surprising. Why?

Not because men don't deal with anxiety. (Officially, one out of five men have an anxiety disorder, but most doctors and mental health practitioners agree that the number is probably much higher. However, anxiety is men is usually underdiagnosed because the symptoms look different.)

  • anger

  • frustration and irritability

  • alcoholism and addiction

  • headaches

  • muscle aches and pains

  • sleep problems

I believe in underdiagnosis of anxiety in men because I've seen it. One client ended up in the ER with what doctors thought could be a heart attack. He had every heart test in the book (costing thousands of dollars) and was totally fine. After five doctor's visits to various specialists, a nurse happened to mention the possibility that he had a panic attack. After five visits! That turned out to be the correct diagnosis. Still, panic attack is one of the first conditions considered when females go into the ER with similar symptoms.

So that's why I'm surprised that men comprise half of my practice: 1.) that they got the right diagnosis to begin with, and 2.) they didn't succumb to some weird societal stigma that real men don't get help, that powerful men don't have anxiety.

The truth is that the men in my practice are usually very high functioning, very accomplished in their careers, with stable families, but they deal with excessive worry and stress⁠—the kind of stress that begins to impact their relationships and their health. This is very common, and counseling is a great way to turn maladaptive stress responses into "healthy stress"⁠—the kind that creates just enough pressure in life to accomplish great things without feeling totally terrible.

I don't want to get into ridiculous gender stereotypes, but generally, the men in my practice are the kind of men who value their work, health, and relationships and, quite frankly, want the most badass life possible. (This is true for women too. They typically just deal with fewer stigmas around it.) So these men are going to tackle the problem head on with a specialist who knows how to treat it. They're problem solvers who are ready to work and get on with their lives.

And whether you're a man or a woman, nothing is more powerful than that.

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