Men Depression and Anxiety in South Africa
“Society expects a lot from men. They’re expected to be seen as confident, in control, the decision makers and the decisive voice of reason and rational. They are many times portrayed as the rock with a steady hand and mind in times of trouble or uncertainty. They are stereotyped as the provider, protector, being dependable, confident, and fearless.”
“However, these very traits that society has labeled men with, could lead men to feeling inadequate and emasculated. It’s not realistic to expect men to be the stronger sex that always lives by society’s motto of ‘what makes a man’ and to simply find a way to ‘pull yourself together’.”
If left untreated, anxiety presents itself in many forms.
“Men who don’t speak out, find inappropriate coping strategies that might very well dull the anxiety temporarily but could develop into a dependency that eventually spins out of control, aggravating the anxiety disorder.”
“Abuse, gambling, drugs (including alcohol), and reckless behaviour are some of the confidence gaining and coping mechanisms embraced by men. However, since they enable men to avoid their anxieties instead of facing them, the very coping mechanisms could aggravate the disorder.”
“Anxiety can trigger anger in men with violence, outbursts, bullying, abusiveness, and explosive quick temper bursts as a result. Irritability and being edgy, touchy, cranky or impatient, becomes the norm reaction to everyday small and large frustrations. In addition, anxiety drives avoidance which in turn constricts lives. The result is a sense of an empty life that turns to depression with feelings of hopelessness and helplessness.”
A range of factors can contribute to, or even trigger the development of an anxiety disorder. These could be a genetic predisposition, as well as physical factors such as an imbalance of hormones and chemical messengers in the brain. But it can also be environmental factors such as excessive stress in a relationship, job, school or financial predicaments, and traumatic life events. Medical factors could lead to an anxiety disorder such as side effects of medication, symptoms or stress relating to an illness.
What are the tell-tale signs?
“Anxiety is more than just a bit of stress, sweaty palms and a sense of butterflies in the stomach. The symptoms are far more severe and include continuous feelings of worry, fear and impending doom that are so severe they interfere with your ability to work, live a healthy life, maintain relationships and ability to sleep."
- Pounding or racing heart
- Excessive sweating
- Muscle tension or aches
- Restlessness or agitation
- Dizziness or vertigo
- Shortness of breath or sensation of choking
- Panic attacks
- Nausea, diarrhea or irritable bowel syndrome
- Constant worry about what could go wrong
- Perceiving situations and events as threatening when they are not
- Indecisiveness and fear of making the wrong decision
- Difficulty concentrating
- Feelings of dread
- Concentration problems
- Catastrophic thinking
- Irritability and edginess
- Nightmares or intrusive thoughts in which traumatic scenes are replayed in the mind
- Mood swings
- Being overly vigilant towards danger
- Fear of losing control
In addition, persistent sadness, apathy or loss of hope or suicidal thoughts could show that the anxiety has morphed into a depression, a common condition seen together with anxiety disorders.
it’s important to share your symptoms with someone you trust. Start with a family member or friend but always find your way to a health care professional who would be able to help you manage the symptoms. Treatments include cognitive behavioural therapy, counseling and in some instances, medication depending on the type of anxiety present.
“It’s important to note that you need to develop your own action plan that includes lifestyle changes which is as much part of the recovery process as seeking medical attention. Engage in regular exercise to release your anxious energy and happy endorphins, get enough sleep, socialise with supportive friends and family, manage stress through meditation, music or art, follow a healthy diet, cut down on alcohol and avoid drugs and other stimulants.”
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