February 16, 2015
Here are some fast facts:
- Anxiety is the most common mental health concern, affecting approximately 12% of Canadians.
- Generally, (heterosexual) women tend to experience anxiety at higher levels than (heterosexual) men – but this may be very different for gay men who can experience and live with anxiety at much higher rates due to things like homophobia, school, community support, sex, and health (HIV and STIs).
- Symptoms of General Anxiety Disorder must exist for longer than 6 months for a diagnosis to be made.
- Anxiety is a natural response to a stressful or dangerous situation.
- The body reacts to a situation with a racing heart, sweaty palms and shortness of breath. For those with an anxiety disorder, this reaction is more intense, occurs frequently and can last hours, even days.
- Anxiety disorders can be the result of a number of factors, including genetics (children of adults with an anxiety disorder have a higher risk of developing one), psychological (individual has a tendency to overestimate danger) and experiences (e.g. an embarrassing moment or a traumatic event).
- If you have a family member with an anxiety disorder, you have a higher chance of developing one.
There’s also “social anxiety” which shows up when we fear that we might say or do something that will make people think less of us. Some of this anxiety is normal and helps us to figure out how to be in social situations, be aware of what others might be thinking, and can help us keep other people’s needs or feelings in mind. If we are experiencing social anxiety it can have an impact on how we connect to people and we may feel lonely or isolated.
In our sexual lives, social anxiety can also prevent us from meeting guys, talking about sex, or communicating with partners about the sex we want to have. One study shows that up to 32% of gay men reported being less likely to use condoms when they didn’t want to offend their sexual partner or thought their sexual partner would react negatively.
As gay guys, anxiety might be common for us when we get tested for HIV and other STIs, when we are trying to deal with how to disclose our HIV status to friends, family, sex partners and service providers.
Some signs of anxiety:
- Ongoing feelings that something bad is going to happen
- Feel a constant worry about doing something embarrassing in front of other people
- We might have an experience of fear or terror
- Difficulty concentrating or focusing
- Feeling sad or depressed
- Feeling restless or having troubles sleeping
- Avoiding social situation
- Feeling that other people won’t like us
- Avoiding being the centre of attention
- Difficulty talking or speaking
- Panic attack
Quick tip - underneath, our feelings of anxiety and worry might be telling us something that we need to listen to.
Canadian Mental Health Association, 2014
Mood Disorder Society of Canada, 2009
Mood Disorder Association of Ontario
“Mental Health Social Work Practice in Canada” by Cheryl Regehr and Graham Clancy, 2014
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