There is a growing awareness of mental health issues in the United States. From athletes, celebrities, actors, and so forth, many public figures have come forth and admitted their struggle with one form of social anxiety or another. For that reason, we have compiled a list of information to remember if you happen to be in a relationship with a man with one of these anxiety disorders. They are more prevalent and less debilitating that one might think, but anxiety is still there and still may have an effect on a relationship. Just remember these points about anxious men and you’ll be golden.
1. He loves you back so much it scares him
Anxious men are not incapable of love. In fact, they may desire it much more than most other men would. However, what sets anxious men apart is that love for them is in some way painful or difficult; it just raises so many more questions for his ever restless brain. So when you say, “I love you,” or show affection, and he only grunts back to you, it’s because many thoughts are racing through his head, and he can’t even begin to organize them.
2. It’s not something he can just get over
A small segment of society is still afraid of mental illness, and, in response to anxiety or other, more severe mental issues, that segment is likely to say something like, “Oh, he will grow out of it,” or “Shut up and be a man.” The best way I’ve ever seen this illustrated was via a simple Internet cartoon, in which placed side-by-side were a picture of a man with his arm cut off, and picture of a man with his metaphorical heart cut out. In the one on the with the arm cut off, the doctor was saying, “Maybe it’s just all in your head!” That was designed to illustrate how real anxiety is–its not something that can just be gotten over– it must be treated the same way a severed arm would, which is with long-term care and adjustment.
3. He is constantly being told his anxiety makes him not a man
The historical stereotype of the ultimate male is one of an emotionally-impervious, self-sufficient he-man who can withstand and overcome anything. In his book, Real Boys: Rescuing Our Sons From the Myths of Boyhood, author William Pollock lays out how this stereotype not only handicaps males than are sensitive to the outside world, but also contributes to their anxiety. What I’m saying is, that if a man is anxious about something, then, due to historical gender roles, he may become anxious about being anxious, creating a downward spiral of nervousness.
4. If he feels safe around you and you prove yourself, he will become an enduring pillar of strength for you
Because he has had to learn to hide his emotions, it might take a while for you to get a anxious man to open up. But once he does, he will be intensely loyal. This man will likely have spent years fighting an image of himself as an emotional weakling, so he will have a bevvy of coping mechanisms and ways to control negativity coming either from outside stimuli or internal thought processes, and, if you give him time, he can teach you these defense mechanisms and much, much more.
5. He will be somewhat afraid to speak about his anxiety in public, but he will recognize the need to do so
All guys, not just anxious ones, know how to ignore their feelings, sublimating sports or video games or music to cover the reality of the thoughts in their heads. But anxious men, once they get their thoughts under control, will eventually come around to the idea of educating others on how it affects them, because, at a time in America when public massacres are consistently committed by men with mental health issues, they will feel the need to reassure people that most men ARE able to grow and cope with their issues, and only the smallest fraction degenerate towards any type of violence.
Featured photo credit: Man Nervously Biting Lip/GianluK via flickr.com