Dr. Vance Whippo
The terms male and anxiety don’t exactly go together. Or at least you won’t find them together very often. This is because anxiety seems to be the antithesis of a traditional view of masculinity. Men are “supposed” to be strong, silent, and never show emotion. Male anxiety does not fit with these other descriptors of masculinity. It’s hard to imagine Chuck Norris or Bruce Willis lying awake at night plagued by fears about their job performance.
And yet, one in five men suffers from an anxiety disorder. So, one in five men is doing a great job of putting on a brave face and making it through despite their anxious thoughts. But it doesn’t have to be this way. An anxiety disorder is not insurmountable. While it may be a lifelong journey, you can achieve significant freedom from the burden of anxiety.
This burden can be especially difficult for Christian men who feel trapped by their anxiety. Often the church treats anxiety as a sin that forces men to suppress their experience and strive to have more faith. However, suppression is not the answer – repentance and faith are.
What is male anxiety?
Anxiety is a mental state characterized by certain behaviors and emotions. One of the most important steps to identify whether you or a loved one is suffering from an anxiety disorder. Working with a mental health professional is the most efficient and effective way to diagnose a male anxiety order, but if you aren’t sure whether you or a loved one needs additional help, then you should consider these symptoms and emotional states.
Physical Symptoms of Male Anxiety
- Excessive sweating
- Tense muscles
- Easily irritated or restless
- Dizziness and vertigo
- Difficulty breathing or swallowing
- Inability to sleep
- Panic attacks.
- Racing or pounding heartbeat
Emotional Symptoms of Male Anxiety
- Constantly worrying
- Difficulty focusing or concentrating
- Avoidance or hiding
- Catastrophic thinking
- Edginess or irritability
- Being overly vigilant towards danger
- Unusual forgetfulness
- Fear of being out of control
- A sense of dread
Experiencing one or more of these symptoms regularly could be a sign that you or a loved one are suffering from a male anxiety disorder. To get a reliable diagnosis, you will need to work with a mental health professional.
Faith and Male Anxiety
Anxiety is often viewed as a type of sin. The Bible says not to be anxious, therefore, being anxious can be sinful. However, not all anxiety is sinful. Sometimes it is a result of physiological or chemical imbalances.
Anxiety isn’t something you do; it’s something you feel. If you walk into a crowded room and feel uncomfortable and insecure, that could be social anxiety. If you lay awake at night because you made a comment you shouldn’t have to a coworker, that could be anxiety. If you constantly wonder where your spouse is despite trusting them, that could be anxiety.
Anxiety is a feeling, and while you can’t control your initial feelings, you can control how you respond to them and whether you permit them to control you. Many Christians choose to suppress their feelings in an attempt to control them. If you are scared because your child is sick, you can shove that fear away and say, “God is good.”
If you are angry about something someone did, you can say, “I’m called to love my enemies.” These doctrines are true, and even if you don’t feel them in your heart, and are just suppressing negative emotions, which can be a first step toward overcoming them.
The same is true of anxiety. To feel anxious thoughts about your job, friendships, or relationship, may or may not sinful, but ultimately, the way that you respond to your anxiety is what matters. If when you feel anxious about your job, you sabotage your coworkers, try to kiss up to the boss, or buy a whole carton of ice cream to comfort you in your misery, you are acting sinfully in response to your feelings of anxiety.
This is what the Bible means when it says, “Cast all your anxieties upon him because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7) Peter acknowledges you have a choice of what to do with your anxiety. You can hand it to God, trusting he is in control, or you can try to take care of things on your own which will always result in sin.
The first step to any miraculous healing in the gospel is someone acknowledging their need. If men believe their feelings are sinful, then must bring them before God in true repentance and faith so that they can receive true and lasting healing through God’s forgiveness.
Helping Men with Anxiety
Since men usually struggle to express their emotions, it is often hard for them to acknowledge their need and ask for help. Here are some helpful tips to help someone you love to take steps toward managing an anxiety disorder.
Don’t give them an ultimatum. You have to help them see the problem for themselves. If you threaten someone struggling with anxiety, it can make things even worse. It’s better to approach this gently and try to help them see it
Don’t use the term “anxiety disorder” at first. Language like this can be intense and frightening. You have to help ease them into seeing this and let them come to terms with the anxiety disorder on their own. Instead, you can help them set small, achievable goals to get them moving toward managing their symptoms and getting help.
Don’t forget to be kind and compassionate. Even if you can see the problem clearly, he may not be able to. Remember that anxiety is a hard thing to confront. You need to be patient and kind.
Do share your concerns about them and how it is affecting you. Often hearing how you are hurting the people you love is a powerful motivator for men.
Do encourage healthy routines. Encourage him to exercise, eat right, get outdoors, and practice mindfulness. Healthy routines help to naturally manage anxious thoughts and feelings.
Do seek out a mental health professional. Christian counselors can be critical for managing anxiety. They will help you to process your feelings and get to the heart of the insecurities. Finding deep freedom from anxiety is possible and have a Christian counselor to guide you on your journey is tremendously beneficial.
The stereotype of men having a hard time asking for help is both funny and true. However, when it comes to male anxiety, not asking for help can come with serious consequences. Undiagnosed anxiety can take a toll on you and your family over time.
You don’t have to live bound by anxiety. God wants to heal you, so you need to acknowledge your need and hand it over to Him. Let Him carry the burden of anxiety for you.
Find a Christian counselor today who can help you uncover the sources of your anxiety while encouraging and affirming your unique identity as a child of God.
“Fed up,” courtesy of Francisco Moreno, unsplash.com, CC0 License “Despairing but not lost”, Courtesy of whoislimos, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Screen time,” courtesy of Neonbrand, unsplash.com, CC0 License “Enjoying the View”, Courtesy of Elijah Hiett, Unsplash.com, CC0 License
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