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Anxiety- Do Men Handle it Differently Than Women?

Men have been known to express anger or other overt behaviors when in an anxious moment while women typically prefer less expressive ways. Why? Are these just stereotypes? Are there really differences?

Ever heard of the book, Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus  by American author and relationship counselor John Gray? Since his 1992 book, the debate has continued. Was Mars the mythical God of War and Venus the Goddess of Love?  John Gray tackled this seeming dichotomy, “I looked at the differences between men and women in a non-judgmental way. And that’s the secret of relationships: creating a space to be different.” (John Gray’s, How we made Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus, Interviews by Ben Beaumont-Thomas, The Guardian)

Let’s briefly explore these gender differences in the expression of their anxieties.


Detecting Anxiety

“While many men are reluctant to admit their anxiety, making it difficult for loved ones to find out what’s going on, there are some tell-tale clues”, said Dr. Martin Antony, Professor and Chair in the Department of Psychology at Ryerson University in Toronto. “If the man in your life starts to avoid things he used to enjoy or becomes irritable, these can be signs of an anxiety disorder. Anger is more acceptable for some men than anxiety.” Additionally, it’s not uncommon for men suffering from anxiety to also experience depression. Other signs include trouble concentrating, difficulty sleeping and loss of interest in sex.”

Getting help

“While men who do see a clinician are usually dragged in by their partners, it’s important not to push, according to Dr. Maureen Whittal, a psychologist in private practice in BC. “Instead, reassure him that his condition is extremely common,” she said. “Tell him ‘It doesn’t have to be this hard’. Find him a family doctor when he’s ready, and you can offer to accompany him. Suggest you treat the visit as an experiment, and don’t ask for a commitment to treatment,” she said. (Men and Anxiety, Anxiety BC)


“Studies show that women may be more prone than men to self-medicate for mood problems with substances such as alcohol (Brady and Randall 1999). Furthermore, empirical inspection of gender differences in stress-related drinking has shown that women report higher levels of stress and have a stronger link between stress and drinking (Rice and Van Arsdale 2010; Timko et al. 2005). Together, these results suggest that women may be more likely to rely on alcohol to manage anxiety.” (Matthew Hunt, Anxiety in Women, Alcohol Enters this Picture as Well, Counseling on Demand)

But let’s be fair, the studies suggest that, “women…rely on”- not abuse- alcohol. And there is a physicality involved- “Clearly sex hormones like estrogen play a critical role in anxiety. Women are more than twice as likely as men to feel anxiety, especially during the hormonal ups and downs.”  (Emotions, Anxiety, Mood, Anxiety and Worry in Women- Causes, Symptoms and Natural Relief, in Women to Women)


As we have seen, the sources of anxiety may be very different for men than for women, so we can assume that these obvious differences affect therapy options; in fact, they may affect the therapist as well. In some cases, a trusted M.D. may be the first option for some , whereas a mental health therapist may be best for others.  Some may require both.

In the event that a mental health therapist is called for, this is where Counseling on Demand comes in.

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I am the Founder and CEO of Counseling On Demand with a Master's Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy with over 25 years of experience in helping Individuals, Couples, Adolescents, and Families who struggle with a wide variety of Life's Challenges. I thus have developed an Array of Effective Counseling Tools and Evidenced-Based Interventions to help you towards Your Road to Better Mental Health and Wellness. You are Never Alone...I look forward to meeting with you or your family member soon!