Top 6 Signs of Anxiety in South Asian Men
Needless to say, men and women experience and express their emotions differently, within their bodies and their minds. While women tend to reach out and find comfort in talking through their feelings, South Asian men are encouraged to keep their emotions to themselves. From a young age, South Asian boys are trained and expected to be able to act like a “man”, meaning not to cry or feel overwhelmed by their emotions, especially anxiety ( http://www.mysahana.org/2010/12/anxiety/ ).
Expressing how they feel and talking about being nervous is completely unacceptable and family members will quickly discourage any such conversation, instead encouraging the boy to “keep it together” or “be strong”.
Unfortunately, not talking about anxiety does not make it go away. In fact, without proper processing of anxiety, it will overwhelm both women and men, resulting bodily reactions and physical symptoms, such as dizziness, heart palpitations and nausea. If untreated, chronic anxiety can lead to more serious ailments, such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
Most South Asian men experience a shift of expectations when they enter into a relationship where their partners want them to share their feelings more often as a way of connection. Because South Asian men were not raised to know how to do that, many of them often don’t know what they’re feeling when they’re feeling it. They may feel pressure to make their partners happy by sharing what they are experiencing but fall short of their partner’s expectations because of their lack of experience and skill in identifying emotions.
It is very important for South Asian men to learn how to tell their partners how they are feeling for two reasons: 1) It improves communication between the couple by expressing directly what is happening instead of forcing his partner to guess what he is feeling and 2) It informs his partner of how to behave and support him best. Without this knowledge, it is a guessing game that frustrates both partners.
Here are some of the most common behaviors that South Asian men engage in when they feel anxious:
1. He becomes easily frustrated. South Asian men are raised to believe that anger and frustration are “strong” emotions for a man but that all others are weak and “feminine”. Often, when he is nervous about something, it will come out as frustration. They might pick fights with their loved ones as a way to release their frustration instead of talking about the source of their stress.
2. He becomes quiet. Some South Asian men become introverted and become especially quiet and withdrawn. They feel pride in being able to take care of themselves and their families. Expressing anxiety makes them worry they will be seen as incapable caretakers. In addition, they can worry about how much their partner trusts them to handle situations appropriately.
3. He sleeps less. Many South Asian men experience insomnia or other sleeping difficulties when they are anxious. Their heart rate, and possibly even their blood pressure, may be high which can interfere with his sleep schedule.
4. He is drinking more caffeine or alcohol. Some South Asian men use caffeine or alcohol to soothe themselves from the uncomfortable feelings of anxiety. A sharp increase in their intake can be an indication that he may be feeling anxious or depressed ( http://www.mysahana.org/2010/12/depression/ ).
5. He focuses more on unimportant tasks or responsibilities. For example, he might suddenly find it more important to meet with friends that he hasn’t seen in months or to clean the garage instead of working on his taxes. Because most South Asian men are not prepared to manage anxiety in a healthy manner, some of them become so overwhelmed by the emotion that they find it easier to turn away from it and focus on easier tasks that they know they can succeed at. This helps them feel as if they are boosting their self-esteem ( http://www.mysahana.org/2011/02/improve-low-self-esteem/ ).
6. He complains of physical symptoms or falls ill. South Asians in general, especially South Asian men place higher value and credence on physical health than emotional health. Thus, he may pay more attention to the physical symptoms associated with anxiety, such as headaches or gastrointestinal problems thinking he has eating something bad or might be developing the flu. In addition, since high anxiety that is not addressed can take a toll on your body’s immune system, he may actually be getting sick more often.
Experience and expression of emotion can be individualized. However, these are the top six most common ways South Asian men tend to handle anxiety. If you notice that you engage in any or all of these behaviors regularly, take some time to identify what triggers them. Does it happen mostly right before a big work presentation or a deadline, after a big fight with your partner, etc? Identify the patterns and learn more about what you need to be able to recover from the anxiety. Communicate this with your partner or family members and you will help strengthen these relationships as well as improve your physical and emotional health.
MySahana, meaning my “patience” or “fortitude” in Sanskrit, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to spreading awareness about mental health issues as they pertain to the South Asian community. By providing culturally-sensitive and relevant information, we aim to correct misinformation, remove stigma and begin a dialogue about mental health and healthy living. We believe it is from these dialogues that South Asians will feel more comfortable seeking services and making the necessary changes to live a healthier life. For more information, please visit our website at http://www.mysahana.org, follow us @MySahana on Twitter and connect with us on Facebook.