The most common form of anxiety is social anxiety. Social anxiety stems from a fear of negative evaluation and rejection in social situations.1 Socially anxious individuals may perceive social situations as more threatening than others as they fear they will be unable to make a positive impression on others and therefore others might devalue or reject them.
GBQT men, like other minorities, might come to expect negative assessment by dominant groups within society, such as cisgender, heterosexual people.2 Because of this some GBQT men might conceal their identity in certain situations to negotiate anticipated stigma. In one study focused on social anxiety among gay men, 75% of respondents said they had changed their behaviour in a situation out of fear they would be identified as and harassed for being gay.1In this way, social anxiety can be seen as a protective measure amongst GBQT guys. There is some debate then as to whether or not a heightened vigilance amongst sexual and gender minorities in social situations is unreasonable.
The truth is, occasional anxiety is a normal part of life. Most people feel some degree of anxiety in stressful situations. In fact, more than one quarter of Edmonton Sex Now respondents reported speaking with a healthcare professional about anxiety in the last 12 months. However, if someone is experiencing anxiety often or if it gets worse or doesn’t go away, there is a chance that they might be dealing with an anxiety disorder.
The National Institute of Mental Health (US) suggests the following symptoms may be signs of an anxiety disorder:3
Generalized Anxiety Disorder:
- Restlessness or feeling wound-up or on edge
- Being easily fatigued
- Difficulty concentrating or having their minds go blank
- Muscle tension
- Difficulty controlling the worry
- Sleep problems (difficulty falling or staying asleep or restless, unsatisfying sleep)
Panic disorder symptoms include:
- Sudden and repeated attacks of intense fear
- Feelings of being out of control during a panic attack
- Intense worries about when the next attack will happen
- Fear or avoidance of places where panic attacks have occurred in the past
Social anxiety disorder symptoms include:
- Feeling highly anxious about being with other people and having a hard time talking to them
- Feeling very self-conscious in front of other people and worried about feeling humiliated, embarrassed, or rejected, or fearful of offending others
- Being very afraid that other people will judge them
- Worrying for days or weeks before an event where other people will be
- Staying away from places where there are other people
- Having a hard time making friends and keeping friends
- Blushing, sweating, or trembling around other people
- Feeling nauseous or sick to your stomach when other people are around
If those symptoms resonate with you or if you feel anxiety is having a negative impact on your life, speak with your primary healthcare provider or get connected with an LGBTQ competent mental healthcare professional. If you’re having difficulty connecting with an LGBTQ competent mental healthcare professional, let us know (link) and we might be able to help you find one.
Finally, there are some things you can do yourself to help manage your anxiety. Some people have seen improvement from joining a support group. Check out our “Access” section to see if there are any support or social groups running currently that you might be interested in. Also, practicing stress management techniques such as yoga or meditation has been shown to help some people better manage their anxiety as well. Team Edmonton offers both of these activities.
And if you’re ever in an emergency or feel you need immediate support contact the distress line at 780-482-HELP (4357).