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Author: William Laird, LMSW

He pulled the car into the driveway, turning the engine off while staring at the lit rooms where his
family sat. He noticed the paint peeling around the front door, and the grass was getting too high. His
frustration mounted as he wondered how he would keep up with it all, and he felt like he was failing the
people who sat waiting for him inside. The familiar throbbing of a headache returned, and he ran his
hands over his face and futilely wished he could wipe these problems away as easily as he did the sweat
on his forehead. He sat in silence, irritably thinking about his day at work, and he took deep breaths and
dreaded returning there tomorrow. He felt angry and tired as he gathered his belongings. He walked
through the tall grass to the door with the cracked and faded paint. He paused for a moment and took a
deep breath. He opened the door and walked in, a broad smile on his face as he greeted his family.

Anxiety is on a spectrum

We all experience feelings of unease or anxiety around situations that are important to us, and in
many ways, mild feelings of anxiety help us to respond to pressures or threats, be aware of risks, and
can motivate us to solve problems. But when anxiety becomes excessive and affects the way we live our
life, it can indicate a more serious problem. Because men seek help for mental health related issues in
less numbers than women, problems associated with anxiety can impact them emotionally, financially,
and cause significant strain in their important relationships. Often men mask these feelings with anger,
substances, or withdrawal. Many men, like the story above, are experiencing all-consuming anxiety and
trying to smile through the pain. There is help available, and the first step is in knowing how to identify
anxiety so that we can have some honest conversations about how it’s affecting our life.

Identifying anxiety

“How do I know if it’s a problem?”
Anxiety is best described as a persistent feeling of unease, worry, dread, tension, or uncontrollable
preoccupation with a future concern or set of circumstances. In men, it could be constantly worrying
about finances, our children, our health, simple every day details, or work performance. Anxiety can
also fluctuate between some or all of these areas or can be experienced as a generalized sense of fear or
dread without a specific threat. Regardless of how men experience anxiety, it can create some very real
difficulties that impact men emotionally and physically and can complicate and undermine intimate and
important relationships.

Anxiety, our feelings, our behavior and our physical bodies
Our thoughts and emotions play a major role in how we interact with the world, in how we see
ourselves, how we believe others see us, and what we believe about ourselves in relation to the
world around us. Constant anxiety can change the way we think and feel, and influence how we react to
our problems, both real and imagined. In men, anxiety can arouse feelings of being a failure, and
feelings of being weak, and these thoughts can lead to shame. Men may become irritable, depressed,
perfectionistic, defensive, isolated, or use substances or other unhealthy activities to cope.
Untreated anxiety can, over time, contribute to significant physical problems as well. Because our
thoughts and emotions can affect us physically, a heightened sense of threat and stressful emotions can cause rapid heartbeat, indigestion, abdominal pain or changes in appetite, headaches, and decreases in
sex drive. It can also cause fatigue, depression, and disrupt our sleeping patterns.

With help, anxiety is a treatable and manageable problem. If you are curious that you may be struggling
with more than just “worrying too much”, answer the following questions:

1) Over the last 6 months, have you had excessive worry or dread about a number of activities or
circumstances, and has this happened more days than not?
2) Can you control your worry?
3) Do you feel restless or on edge more often than not?
4) Do you get tired easily or feel tired often?
5) Do you have difficulty concentrating?
6) Are you easily irritated?
7) Do you experience tension in your muscles or anywhere in your body?
8) Do you have sleep problems?

If you answered yes to 3 or more of these, you may have challenges with anxiety. Seeking help from a
mental health professional or a therapist can provide the skills and tools needed to assist you in
reclaiming your life and experiencing a sense of relief from the emotional toll that anxiety can cause.
Often men do not seek help, allowing these problems to go unaddressed. We can all change that by
normalizing and encouraging men’s mental health, having these discussions with the men in our lives,
with the hope that no one has to suffer in silence.

This post was written by William Laird, LMSW. William is a therapist at Modern Therapy and Wellness. He is available to see individuals or couples. He has special interest in the areas of grief, addiction, anxiety and relationships. William practices meditation and writes as a form of self-care.  William is also a musician, and has played all through New Orleans and the southern United States.  Click here to schedule an appointment or a free consultation with William.

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