Overcoming the Stigma of Social Anxiety in Recovery

Nov 25, 2022

Imagine you are in an empty room with a single exit, at the far end of the room from you. After a moment, a few people come through the door, then a few more seconds later, a few more people. Soon the room is filling up, and you can’t get to the door because people keep entering. Fear and panic grip you as you desperately try to move through the crowd and get to safety. 

This is how life is for people with chronic anxiety. Anxiety is a feeling of unease that can lead to a fight-or-flight adrenaline response in people who suffer from it. Unlike an actual situation like being in a crowded room, however, there is often no escape without intervention

People with anxiety do not have an off switch. They live every day feeling as though they are trapped in a world that does not understand them. Despite the large number of men who suffer from anxiety disorders, few receive treatment. 

Statistically, one in every five men will experience anxiety in their lives. While men are as likely as women to experience anxiety and depression, they are extremely unlikely to seek help. Because of this, their mental illness may be miscategorized by those around them. 

There is good news, though. Anxiety can be treated through a variety of methods, including counseling, medicine, exercise, and nutrition management. Read on as we discuss the unique issues of men and anxiety and how men can overcome stigma to get help.

Why We Feel Anxiety

There are good reasons we feel anxiety. Anxiety is a conditioned response to a threat we know is near us. When someone feels anxiety without the presence of an existential threat, their condition ventures into abnormality. 

Most of us probably venture into the abnormal from time to time. When we have irrational fears of spiders (arachnophobia), heights (acrophobia), or water (aquaphobia), we are exhibiting an abnormal response. 

Men exhibit an abnormal response to seeking help when they have irrational anxiety. This is often because of a perceived stigma stemming from the belief that men should not ask for help. However, this response likely has more to do with their own internalized idea of masculinity than an outside perception from others.

The Stigmas of Men and Anxiety

Studies show that men with anxiety do not reach out to the resources available to get help with their disorders. Startlingly, instead of seeking treatment, men will often use substances to escape from their troubles. Sadly, men also die by suicide at a rate of four times that of women. 

So why are men so averse to seeking treatment? The answer is stigma. In the western world, we hold up the ideal of the strong, powerful man as the leader. Leadership is a lonely position, though – one where weakness cannot be shown. So men are trained not to exhibit any signs of it. 

One theory about why men do not seek out help is that they are socialized to suppress their feelings of anxiety, depression, and negative self-worth. Instead, men are encouraged to use alcohol and other substances as a means of self-medication. 

We see this trend almost everywhere we look. There is an entire marketing industry for commercial advertisements encouraging this self-medicating behavior. It is prevalent in movies and television. 

The bottom line is this: men are encouraged not to show their emotions or speak about how they feel. That is the stigma that keeps men from facing their problems with anxiety and getting the help they need.

Talking It Out Makes All the Difference

Anxiety drives us to our breaking points, and it can often feel as though no one in the world will understand what we are going through. Deep down, we know that if we want others to understand us, we have to speak. 

Talking about our issues can make us feel better about them. In counseling, this is called talk therapy. It is the most widely used type of therapy, encouraging patients to speak while the therapist listens. 

Sometimes, talking to someone can make all the difference in the world. When we talk to someone about our anxiety, it can trigger our emotions to come forth. Sigmund Freud called this the cathartic release. 

Once you have allowed your emotions to come to the surface, you will often feel better about your situation. This is why we call it a release. We often bury traumatic experiences rather than face them. The catharsis allows us to face them and feel what we need to feel in order to heal ourselves. 

As a treatment program alumnus, you are already familiar with the many opportunities you have to talk out your emotions. Whether in one-on-one counseling, in group counseling, at regular alumni events, or even with your mentor in the Band of Brothers, there is always an ear ready to listen as you speak.

Anxiety and Men in Recovery

Anxiety is not a condition that you can cure and never feel again. If that were the case, none of us would ever feel that rush of adrenaline and urge to fight or flee. Anxiety disorders are simply maladaptive responses to a feeling that, in certain contexts, helps us to survive. 

Like recovery from substance use disorders, recovery from anxiety disorders is a lifelong process that requires commitment. You have to work toward overcoming anxiety day by day, and sometimes hour by hour. The result, like substance use recovery, is worth the journey.

Suffering from an acute anxiety disorder can feel like the weight of the world is crushing down on you. Underneath all the stress, fatigue, and worry, it can feel like you can’t breathe as you struggle to hold up the weight. Men and women are about as equally likely to suffer from anxiety disorders. Unfortunately, while women are likely to seek treatment for anxiety and depression, men are not. From a young age, men are socialized to bottle up their anxiety and self-medicate with alcohol and other substances, leading to cycles of abuse. Talking about anxiety helps, and there are other treatments available. Call Renaissance Ranch today at (801) 308-8898 to learn more.