Anxiety in men: symptoms, causes and treatment

From identifying signs to seeking treatment, this is how anxiety can affect men.

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This page was clinically reviewed by Dr David McLaughlan, a Consultant Psychiatrist at Priory Hospital Roehampton, in April 2022.

In any given week, statistics on anxiety report the prevalence of this condition to be 6.6% in the UK. Men often find it difficult to discuss their mental health, but the effects of anxiety are no less severe amongst males, if it develops into a serious disorder.

Sometimes, the symptoms, causes and other elements of anxiety may be different in men than in women. That’s why, if you or a man you care about is struggling with anxiety, it’s so important you learn about the symptoms, causes and how you can help with anxiety.

Anxiety symptoms in men

Anxiety can show itself in different ways for different people. However, there are some core symptoms of anxiety that tend to be consistent, no matter your gender.

symptoms and causes of anxiety in men

  • A persistent sense of worry, apprehension, dread or hopelessness
  • Feeling fearful, paranoid and tense
  • Extreme stress
  • Mood swings
  • Low self-esteem
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Increased heart rate or palpitations
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pains

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If you need help assessing yourself, our free assessment tool could help.

Types of anxiety that affect men

It’s normal for us all to experience anxiety – it’s a natural bodily response to perceived threat. However, if symptoms are severe and persist over many weeks and months, it may be that you’re struggling with an anxiety disorder. Common types of anxiety include:

  • Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD): persistent chronic feelings of worry or apprehension, often without a clear idea of what's provoking it
  • Social anxiety: excessive levels of fear and worry that’s centred around social situations
  • Panic disorder: regularly experiencing panic attacks, which are short, intense episodes of physical anxiety symptoms like chest pains and heart palpitations
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): anxiety that has developed after a traumatic experience in your life, often when your life was threatened or in serious danger
  • Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD): a series of obsessions (unwanted thoughts) and/or compulsions (behaviours that you feel compelled to perform in order to relieve anxiety)

Performance anxiety

While it’s possible for men and women to experience all types of anxiety, performance anxiety is more common in men when it relates to sex.

Sexual performance anxiety is when someone is worried or preoccupied with something to the extent that it prevents their ability to become aroused. Common causes include poor body image or problems in the relationship. For men, it may also be that you’re worried about satisfying your partner or that you don’t ‘match up’ compared to other men.

Another type of performance anxiety relates to performing on stage or in front of crowds. You might experience this when you have an important presentation at work, or you have a job or hobby in which performing in front of people is common, such as a musician.

Paul's inspirational story of mental health recovery

What causes anxiety in men?

It’s unlikely that there’s a single cause for someone developing anxiety. Many factors can contribute and combine, leading to someone struggling with anxiety or a specific anxiety disorder. Common causes of anxiety, which are consistent across genders, include:


Genetics are known to play a role in the development of anxiety disorders, meaning that if you have a close relative who has struggled with the condition, it may increase the likelihood that you do too. This could be down to hereditary factors, or early exposure to anxiety and the behaviours that come with it.

Stressful or traumatic experiences 

Significant or stressful events in your life, either now or in the past, can trigger anxiety. These might include excessive stress at work, financial worries, experiencing a bereavement or going through a relationship break-up. Your childhood can play a big role here too, with victims of abuse or neglect in childhood being more likely to struggle with mental health problems like anxiety in adult life.

Other health problems

If you’re experiencing health problems, whether these are physical or mental in nature, it might be that your anxiety is a symptom of this. Chronic physical health problems, where you're in constant pain, can leave you especially vulnerable to developing anxiety. Any existing mental health problems, such as depression, may also increase the likelihood of you developing anxiety.

Also, lots of different medications list anxiety as a potential side effect – thyroid and seizure medication are just two examples.

Lifestyle factors

Many aspects of your lifestyle can also lead to anxiety or make any existing anxiety worse. Excessive drug or alcohol use, your diet, quality of sleep, and how active you are, can all play a role in the development of anxiety. Men in particular will often find themselves turning to alcohol or drugs to self-medicate when feeling anxious, which can create a cycle of anxiety. Excessive use of alcohol can also lead to hangxiety, where someone feels nervous, on-edge and unable to relax after drinking.

How to help a man with anxiety

There are lots of things you can do to help a man with anxiety. Here are some dos and don’ts:

  • Do encourage a healthy lifestyle. Eating healthily and exercising are known to be effective at reducing anxiety
  • Do let them know you're there for them. There's nothing better than hearing a supportive voice when you're struggling with your mental health
  • Do help them find treatment. From attending a GP appointment to researching treatment options, do what you can to support your loved one with treatment if they need it
  • Don’t put too much pressure on them. Strike a balance between not enabling people’s anxieties and not forcing them to do something they don’t want to do
  • Don’t expect instant results. People’s condition improves at different paces, and impatience will only be detrimental
  • Don’t ignore or try to avoid them. People with anxiety can be quick to isolate themselves, so be sure to stay in regular contact

Treatment for men with anxiety

Today, many evidence-based treatments are available for men who suffer with an anxiety disorder.

Inpatient programmes 

Inpatient treatment consists of a residential stay in a purpose-built facility where you can receive specialist, round-the-clock treatment and support from highly qualified mental health professionals. This treatment is especially effective if your symptoms are severe and you need a break from normal life in order to recover.

Outpatient or day care treatment 

While inpatient programmes involve therapy sessions, another common treatment pathway includes a course of therapy that takes place on an outpatient or day care basis. These might be conducted as part of a group, with family or loved ones, or on a one-to-one basis, where you attend a specialist hospital site on a set number of days for treatment.

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is an effective therapy method for treating many anxiety disorders, as it seeks to help you manage your mood, thoughts and behaviours more effectively.

Other therapies for anxiety include:

  • Exposure therapy - for social anxiety or phobias, where you're gradually exposed to the target of your anxiety
  • Eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR) - for trauma, PTSD and panic disorders, EMDR focuses on allowing your brain to resume its natural healing process


Medication may also be beneficial, especially when coupled with therapy. Examples include antidepressants such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), beta-blockers for reducing physical symptoms and anxiolytics for short-term relief.

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