Recognizing Stress Symptoms in Men

Stress varies for every person—here are some signs of stress in men

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When the pressures around a person outstrip their ability to cope with them we call this stress but we mean stress of the distress variety. We can think of stress in two ways: Eustress, which can be thought of as helpful stress and distress, which can be thought of as unhelpful and damaging stress.

Men are not always good at recognizing stress in themselves, and stress is clearly an individual experience.

What one man finds stressful, another will not, and what can be stressful at one time may not cause stress during another time of your life.

Measuring Stress in Men

Stress can be measured in different ways, but testing usually takes the form of a self-report in which the person rates particular experiences, events or feelings on a defined scale.

Perhaps the most well known is the SRRS (Social Readjustment Ratings Scale) that was originally put together by two American psychiatrists in 1967 by Thomas H. Holmes and Richard Rahe. They listed a number of life events assumed to be stressful, such as moving or the death of a spouse or other close loved one, and they assigned a numerical value to each of these events based on the intensity of the stress. Death of a spouse, for example, was rated the most stressful at 100 whereas a minor violation of the law was assigned a value of 11.

Physical Signs and Symptoms of Stress in Men

Below are some of the physical signs and symptoms of stress experienced in men.

Remember that stress is an individual experience and that symptoms are too. Signs of disease should not be ignored just because you believe they are stress-related. You must get more serious symptoms checked by your doctor.

  • Muscle aches, such as back and neck pain
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Clenched jaws and grinding teeth
  • Tightness, dryness or a feeling of a having lump in your throat
  • Indigestion
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Increased perspiration
  • Stomach cramps
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Skin problems

Psychological Signs & Symptoms of Stress

The psychological signs and symptoms of stress include:

  • Sadness
  • Depression
  • Crying
  • Withdrawal or isolation
  • Insomnia
  • Mood swings
  • Worry
  • Restless anxiety
  • Irritability, anger or decreased anger control
  • Overeating or anorexia
  • Feelings of insecurity
  • Decreased productivity
  • Job dissatisfaction
  • Changes in close relationships
  • Increased smoking
  • Increased use of alcohol and drugs

Facts about Stress and Men

Here are some important facts that play a role in how we think about stress, its effects both physically and psychologically, and others.

  • The language of stress is largely borrowed from engineering in which we talk of stress, strain, tolerance, resilience, breaking points, flexibility, elasticity, etc. of materials.
  • Broadly speaking stress can be experienced in two ways, physically and psychologically, but the two are interrelated. For example, the psychologists Janice Keicolt-Glaser has demonstrated how chronic stress leads to decreased immune function, increased risk of infection and decreased ability to fight infection or repair tissue.
  • Stress is a protector in that it gives us a mechanism for dealing with threats. We have the ability to confront threats or avoid them; the so-called "fight or flight" mechanism.
  • Stress can be good as well as bad. Without some stress we would not get the adrenaline up to win races, solve problems, take exams and make important changes.
  • Stress, particularly long-term stress, can be a factor in the onset or worsening of ill health and a shortened lifespan.
  • Stress management is essential to wellbeing and something we should practice every day.

Sources

Gross, R. Psychology The Science of Mind and Behavior. 2005. Hodder Education.

Kiecolt-Glaser, J. et al. Psychoneuroimmunology and Psychosomatic Medicine: Back to the Future. Psychosomatic Medicine. 64:15–28

Boscarino, J.A. Diseases among men 20 years after exposure to severe stress: implications for clinical research and medical care. Psychosomatic Medicine. October 1997. 59(6):605-14.

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