Breaking the Silence: Men’s Journey Through Anxiety

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In a world where the narrative around masculinity often equates to strength and stoicism, the topic of men’s anxiety remains shrouded in silence. Yet, this silence does not negate the reality that many men journey through life grappling with anxiety. It’s a journey that demands recognition and understanding.

Anxiety, often misconstrued as merely a bout of nerves or a fleeting worry, can be a profound and persistent challenge. It can also be a source of shame and fear based on the associated stigma.  For men, it can manifest uniquely, shaped by societal expectations and personal experiences. While there are many individual and cultural differences in gender roles and experiences, some of these pressures are widespread.

The Journey Begins

Interestingly, the journey begins with acknowledging the existence of anxiety. Often men experience and express anxiety in uncommon ways. Consider the following:

  • Manifestation in Physical Symptoms: Often, men’s anxiety does not present itself in the classic symptoms of nervousness or worry. Instead, it can manifest through physical symptoms like chronic pain, headaches, gastrointestinal issues, or unexplained fatigue. This physical manifestation can sometimes lead to misdiagnosis or delay in recognizing anxiety as the root cause.
  • Risk-Taking and Avoidance Behaviors: Men are more likely to engage in risk-taking behaviors as a coping mechanism for anxiety. This can include substance use, reckless driving, or other forms of dangerous behavior. It’s a way of diverting attention from their internal struggles, but these actions can compound their problems over time.
  • Work and Achievement-Oriented Anxiety: Men often channel their anxiety into their work or achievements, driven by societal pressures to succeed and provide. This can lead to a form of anxiety that is closely tied to professional performance, financial stability, and personal accomplishments, making it difficult for men to separate their self-worth from their achievements.
  • Social Withdrawal: While it’s common to associate anxiety with overt nervousness, many men experiencing anxiety may instead become withdrawn or isolated. They might avoid social interactions and activities they used to enjoy, not out of disinterest, but as a coping mechanism to manage their anxiety.

In therapy, I often work with men to recognize their range of related emotions. This can take some time and practice.

The Deeper Work

Once we are aware of anxiety in our lives, the path to managing anxiety involves embracing vulnerability. It’s about recognizing that seeking help, discussing feelings, and expressing fears are acts of courage, not weakness. It’s about finding strength in vulnerability, a concept that might seem paradoxical in traditional views of masculinity.

Therapeutic interventions, such as counseling, play a significant role in navigating this journey. Additionally, the power of community and shared experiences cannot be understated. Support groups, online forums, and open conversations with peers provide a space for empathy and understanding, essential components in the healing process.

As we develop our team, it is important to build our toolbox.  As we learn a range of tools to manage anxiety such as breathing, meditation, changing beliefs, clarifying values, improving restful sleep, and other such skills, we can feel more confident and empowered.  This may include both tools to stabilize today’s anxiety and to remove the triggers of anxiety that are rooted in our past.  It is important to have a range of tools so you can find the best ones for our specific situation.

Establishing Our Courageous Heart

Like any new skills, once we learn them, we are beginners and inexperienced.   We then need to practice and persevere.  This is why our team is so important.  Our psychologist and our friends become guides to implement the changes as we understand them.  As we implement these changes over time, this courage becomes the heart of our experience.  As we remember our inner strength, it changes the trajectory of our lives, our relationships, and our freedom.

And Beyond…

The journey through anxiety for men is not just about breaking the silence. It’s about building a new understanding and acceptance of what it means to be a man facing mental health challenges. It’s a journey that calls for compassion, both from within and from society at large. As we continue to break down the barriers and stigmas surrounding men’s mental health, we pave the way for a future where expressing vulnerability and seeking help are seen as strengths, not weaknesses.

This journey, though individual, resonates with a universal truth: in acknowledging and addressing our vulnerabilities, we find our true strength.


Kenneth J. Martz, PsyD, MBA

Kenneth J. Martz, PsyD, MBA, is a licensed psychologist. He has worked in the treatment and management of addiction for the past 30 years across multiple settings. He was formerly the Special Assistant to the Secretary for the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and Policy Director in Substance Use Disorders for the Governor’s Policy Office.

Dr. Martz has a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology from the Argosy University. He has authored a dozen publications, six bestsellers, including the international bestseller Manage My Emotions, translated into multiple languages. He has over 100 local, national, and international presentations in the addictions treatment field.