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A generation of young guys with anxiety about the future

Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
So I'm just going to put this out there, because it's very poignant to me, and I hope people can relate to it. Just been reading about another guy's experience at University which was similar to mine, and loads of other young guys pipped in and offered their agreement. Basically it comes down to being so anxious about getting good grades that you skip lectures, hand in work at the last possible moment, all because this demon inside stops you from just getting on with. You're too worried.

And guys feel ashamed about feeling like that. And normally when you open up about it, the response is 'deal with it' or 'stop making excuses' which in some ways are fair, as the only way to 'beat' it is to deal with it. But the support offered is fairly limited, one of the things that really helped me was when a doctor gave me some happy pills, but each guy's experience may vary.

At the crux of it is that society implies that guys are strong and dependable. Girls aren't attracted to weak guys or 'nice' guys as its often put. Employers want to hire the outgoing alpha male guy, he's the one who will be earning 6 figures a year out of uni. So guys try to act like that because... well that's what you gotta do to get ahead! And so when the anxiety of not being able to achieve everything gets on top of you... you can't just admit weakness and seek help because that would be admitting to yourself that you can't be the awesome guy that girls like and employers like. You feel like you're just.. nothing.. useless.

I think this is an insidious problem because it's simply not addressed. Suicide is well documented as being highest for young men, but if you think of all the young guys you know, how many do you know how are blatantly suffering with anxiety and depression? Probably not many, in fact the only two I know are myself previously and my brother. However this is a problem that probably affects at least 1 in 4 young guys at some point.

I wonder whether we will continue to soldier on and listen to rhetoric about personal responsibility, or if some change will come about one day to help youger guys deal with the pressures of young adult life. For me one of the saving graces was having a much older guy take me under his wing for a bit, he just looked out for me and helped me get things sorted. He had kids of his own and said if it was his son in my position he would want someone else to help them. However I think the majority of young guys especially at university don't get that kind of support. Some of them pass the 'sink or swim' test and get through, some of them scrape by, some of them drop out, and some of them end up in a deep self-loathing depression.

Anyway, I've said enough now, I'll open up the thread to comments.

TL;DR A significant proportion of young guys feel under so much pressure to be successful that they are falling down to anxiety and depression which is stopping them from achieving their potential, and nobody really has anything to say or do about it. Society doesn't care.

Comments

  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    I'm a little perplexed by the premise this post hangs off. You desperately wanted to get good grades and in order to facilitate you gaining them you decided not to go to lectures? And this links in with girls not wanting to date weak guys? Then you're talking about suicide...

    I'm not sure if you've not explained this very well, or I'm not getting it, or you're conflating a number of issues, but I don't follow.

    RE: Last minute hand-ins: handing in work at the last possible minute was standard operating procedure for everyone on my course at uni!
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    It's not logical cpt coat hanger that's the thing. The stress and anxiety of having to achieve the best in everything causes some people to shut down, but they can't admit that they need help because then they're admitting they can't be the best in everything. It's not supposed to make sense, but that's how some people work.

    The suicide thing was to tie in to how young men especially are the most vulnerable group with regards to depression and anxiety (and subsequent suicide) and yet there is still next-to-no proactive strategy to dealing with that at either a national level through the NHS / government or on a local level with Universities and colleges.

    And last minute hand ins, people do it for different reasons. Some people are busy, some are lazy, and some feel anxious and so ignore focusing on it until the shit hits the fan. I suppose its one of those problems that seems absurd unless you've actually been there :/
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    I think a lot of people genuinely find it difficult to focus on something without a deadline looming. I know I do.
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    I think a lot of people genuinely find it difficult to focus on something without a deadline looming. I know I do.

    Especially university work. :D
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    ShyBoy wrote: »
    It's not logical cpt coat hanger that's the thing. The stress and anxiety of having to achieve the best in everything causes some people to shut down, but they can't admit that they need help because then they're admitting they can't be the best in everything. It's not supposed to make sense, but that's how some people work.

    Are you one of those people?
    The suicide thing was to tie in to how young men especially are the most vulnerable group with regards to depression and anxiety (and subsequent suicide) and yet there is still next-to-no proactive strategy to dealing with that at either a national level through the NHS / government or on a local level with Universities and colleges.

    This doesn't seem like the natural, logical flow of the discussion to me, unless you're describing your personal journey in the third person?
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    it's a scary world out there for young men. aren't they more likely to be the victim of street violence or did i make that up in my head? i tried googling but can't find a source right now. on a personal level this definitely seems to be the case at least. violence seems almost inevitable for them.

    on firework evening my brother was stood just inside a shop window waiting for someone. a guy came strolling around the corner texting on his phone, not looking where he was going with his girlfriend. he walked into my brother and automatically my brother said 'sorry mate'. this guy's response was to square upto him.

    i realise this happens to girls too (happened the other day to me.. yay) but to me at least it seems more prominent with young blokes making unprovoked attacks on other young blokes.

    i realise you're mostly concentrating on academic anxiety but anxiety in general can be propagated by a lot of things.
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    Are you one of those people?

    I was at university until I got it sorted.
    This doesn't seem like the natural, logical flow of the discussion to me, unless you're describing your personal journey in the third person?

    I was just pulling in a random factoid from my head that young men are the most likely to suffer from depression and the most likely to commit suicide. I wondered if this tied in. I often go off on tangents by accident.
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    Just some clarifications as someone off-forum mentioned something to me.

    I'm not suicidal. There we go. I'm going to break this down into bullets as I think that might help make my rambling a little bit clearer.

    An issue for a significant minority of young men is that they suffer from:
    • Social anxiety
    • Achievement anxiety
    • Isolation
    • Depression

    Which can lead to a drop off in:
    • Motivation
    • Self-esteem
    • Aspirations
    • Ability to 'keep up' with academic and/or workplace pressures

    However, despite in the last century the rise of the man who understands his feminine side (e.g., it's seen as the 'big thing' to walk away from a fight), men still feel under pressure to be:
    • Wealthy
    • Powerful (e.g. job/car/owns own place)
    • Dominant / 'alpha' male / decision making

    In the same way a lot of women feel under pressure to be attractive and so on.

    My complaint is that there is very little support offered to men who fit into this significant minority. They are left to fend for themselves and the 'sink or swim' test applies. Our typical society view of males supposed to be strong would support this - you should 'man up' and if you can't hack it, then that is your own fault. I believe that this is wrong attitude for society to hold.

    Furthermore, I entertain the notion of whether this disconnect of support and nurturing of young men (because they should 'man up' rather than be supported) contributes at all to the higher-than-average suicide and depression rates amongst young men. I am not suicidal.

    The NHS has noted for several years in a row it is failing men. It acknowledges in its own equality reports that it provides 8 times more in services for women than men. Of course the age old 'men are too stubborn to seek help' can be wheeled out, but I would extend the above societal view that men should be masculine and deal with it.

    To cut it down to its bare essentials, my argument is that society in some way, shape, or form, can at times consider men to be expendable. Successful men are encouraged to be successful, unsuccessful men (particularly young men who are not yet sure of themselves who seem to be the biggest group) are ignored. If they fall through the cracks they are left there, because society has a perception that men must be men and 'sink or swim'.

    I have been in this boat before, but I have met and spoken to a lot of people who have been or are in a similar position right now.
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    Sorry, dude, but the whole topic still seems a bit woolly to me. Your starting point is that young men suffer from a fairly diverse range of ailments. And then you seem to be saying that those wide-ranging issues can lead to quite specific problems with motivation and aspiration. You then throw in than men feel under pressure to be dominant, wealthy and powerful - something I certainly don't feel, and have never felt - and complain that men don't receive enough support when they don't adhere to that model.

    I'm not brushing off any of these issues individually, but it feels a bit like you've shaken up a bag of some connected, some loosely connected and other completely disparate items when you should rather have picked a single thread out of this ball of yarn and followed it through.

    And I dispute that society sees men as expendable. There might not be the support available to certain groups of people who need it, but to say that equates to expendability is off the mark.
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    Ah fair enough then.
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    I'm not trying to brush you off, fella. I'm just trying grasp the situation you're attempting to represent. I may well be over-simplifying matters.
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    Part of the reason the NHS is failing young men, is that it is still seen as unmanly to seek help for mental health issues.

    I don't think society considers young men any more expendable than anyone else. Everyone is expendable right now, especially the young as they don't have the experience. The only people upholding this perception that men must be men and 'sink or swim' is men! Young men, like yourself!

    I'm not pulling my feminist card here, but if most young guys lessened the macho pretense and just got on with whatever shit they've been deal with and reached out for help, then this problem wouldn't be so bad. I think part of the reason that there are more service for women is because the demand is much higher - if men actually attended services that were made available for them, then I'm sure more would open up. Everyone is having to change their views on whats acceptable work/living conditions/etc, and people need to be flexible about their options and stop pushing themselves to attain unacheivable goals. People need to change their ideas of what it is to be wealthy, prosperous and what power actually is, because a lot of the current ideas are totally unsustainable!

    Anyway, thats my tupence worth.
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    I certainly think I would have done better at school/uni if I wasn't so shy, because I think a lot of the time my shyness stopped me from asking teachers for help. I struggled alone.
    Then it was pretty much the same at work. I would struggle to do jobs by myself, without the wherewithall to ask for help until I cracked. Colleagues weren't much help. By and large they just told me to "man up". One or two were supportive, but the vast majority treated me like dirt, until I craked and quit.
    Fortunately now I'm in a better job with nicer people, and my confidence is growiong, but its still not up to alpha-male levels.
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    ShyBoy wrote: »
    Just some clarifications as someone off-forum mentioned something to me.

    I'm not suicidal. There we go. I'm going to break this down into bullets as I think that might help make my rambling a little bit clearer.

    An issue for a significant minority of young men is that they suffer from:
    • Social anxiety
    • Achievement anxiety
    • Isolation
    • Depression

    Which can lead to a drop off in:
    • Motivation
    • Self-esteem
    • Aspirations
    • Ability to 'keep up' with academic and/or workplace pressures

    However, despite in the last century the rise of the man who understands his feminine side (e.g., it's seen as the 'big thing' to walk away from a fight), men still feel under pressure to be:
    • Wealthy
    • Powerful (e.g. job/car/owns own place)
    • Dominant / 'alpha' male / decision making

    In the same way a lot of women feel under pressure to be attractive and so on.
    I fail to see why more people haven't supported this view Shyboy. I think that there are very different societal pressures on both women and men... I have a lot of male friends, so whilst I don't experience the world as a man, I do see some of what you've said reflected in them... I can imagine things being hard for a lot of men now we're in a recession, if they were the primary breadwinner... At the same time, I do think a lot of men are rewarded for having traits which are perceived as coming "naturally" for women... For example, being good with kids, being gentle ect... Though a "nice guy" may not always be seen as being a potential mate.
    Furthermore, I entertain the notion of whether this disconnect of support and nurturing of young men (because they should 'man up' rather than be supported) contributes at all to the higher-than-average suicide and depression rates amongst young men. I am not suicidal.

    The NHS has noted for several years in a row it is failing men. It acknowledges in its own equality reports that it provides 8 times more in services for women than men. Of course the age old 'men are too stubborn to seek help' can be wheeled out, but I would extend the above societal view that men should be masculine and deal with it.
    Do you think this could also be due to prejudice, or the way in which men attempt suicide? Apparently women are more likely to choose methods such as poisoning, whereas a guy may choose something like hanging, or jumping off a bridge... So a woman may have more chance of being found?
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    I think part of the problem is the cognitive disconnect with issues like this. I noticed it WRT to feminism. I wrote my final paper on feminism in accounting (it wasn't a dissertation because it was only 20 credits etc. but it was still pretty involved and 5000 words) and one of the things I came to realise and established well in the paper (and I got a high first on this paper...) was that because I'm a man, there is simply no way I could ever 100% 'feel' what it's like to be a woman and be in that position.

    This is much the same perhaps. I think there's a lot of issues that contribute to it, but I don't agree with the posters who don't think its an issue. I speak to a lot of guys who basically fall under the umbrella of 'stumbling into failure' whereby normally small setbacks in their life cascade into an unmanageable situation. Often the way this is dealt with by young men is the opposite of what would be productive - they withdraw and hide from their friends.

    The recession may make things harder since a lot of 'validation' for young men comes from career success. You can draw an extremely strong correlation between employment and depression, for example. Simply put, young men who fall into unemployment are seldom happy.

    The main thing that bothers me though is that the problem of young men falling from a bright and successful path into a path down into self-loathing and failure isn't really recognised.

    When I say men are expendable I'm referencing Warren Farrell who is somewhat of a polemicist in this area. It's not to say that men are literally worth nothing (as with anything, debate is more exciting when we are dramatic and passionate, perhaps sometimes exaggerating for the sake of rhetoric ;)) but it was made as a point that men are seen as less valuable than women. The same can be said for white people are seen as more valuable than black people. The perfect example that has been used elsewhere is that missing young white girls hog all the tabloid papers for weeks. When was the last time you heard about a missing black man? Yup.

    All of this is tied to the way we, as society, view and value things. We naturally prejudge things, and that's ok... we are just human. But it is the role of academia and government informed by academia to notice discrepencies between what is fair and what occurs naturally because of the human condition, and repair them when possible. That is why there is such a backlash against violence against women, that's why patriarchy, slavery, discrimination, and even murder if we want to go to extremes are all confronted by government. These are all natural parts of the human condition that if left to itself would occur and occur often.

    When it comes to the problems I have in my own experience felt and seen a lot of other young men felt however, the silence is deafening. I can't find much at all regarding it on scholar.google.com except for the fact that in some papers they cite it as a concern worthy of further research.
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    Guys are getting a rough deal in many ways.

    I think both women and society in general give men mixed messages so its no wonder they feel confused and anxious. We tell young men that its good to be nice, kind and hard-working yet we actually seem to admire the alpha male jerks. We tell men that they should talk about their feelings and emotions but when a man asks for help most people don't want to know, he should just “man up” and “get on with it”.

    I'm very much a feminist but I think one of the downsides is that it has left many men, the less alpha ones, with no obvious role. Maybe we need some honest dicussion about what it means to be a man in the 21st century.
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    Are you familiar with Jackson Katz?

    Thanks, Shy Boy, for posting about this very, very important topic. As the mother of a very anxious 21-year-old American man, I think you've raised an issue that is worthy of much more serious discussion than it has received on this forum.

    I'm wondering if you know the work of the sociologist Jackson Katz, who writes about the pressures on young (and old) men to conform to certain, very rigid gender roles. Here's a study guide for his very interesting and important documentary, Tough Guise, which I have seen and highly recommend.

    http://www.jacksonkatz.com/PDF/WCW_commentary.pdf

    In it we learn that

    "The idea that manhood or masculinity represents a fixed, inevitable, natural state of being is a myth. What a
    culture embraces as “masculine” can be better understood as an ideal or a standard – a projection, a pose, or a
    guise that boys and men often adopt to shield their vulnerability and adapt to the local values and expectations
    of their immediate and more abstract social environments. This projection or pose can take myriad forms, but
    one that’s crucial to examine is the “tough guise”: a persona based on an extreme notion of masculinity that
    links the credibility of males to toughness, physical strength, and the threat or use of violence."

    Not being able to fit into the rigid role that dominant culture imposes on young men very naturally inspires a strong sense of anxiety.

    Amoret
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    I think what ShyBoy has posted makes a lot of sense - personal journey or otherwise.

    Anxiety, as a form of stress caused by the need to achieve and hit specific goals is generally recognised as a motivator, however, it is well documented that there comes a point on the stress curve when such anxiety becomes disabling rather than enabling.


    Is it weak to be effected by anxiety?

    If it is, then special forces military personnel across the world must be selected from ?weak people?, because they train, train, and train again, so that they can overcome the stress caused by high-risk manoeuvres when embroiled in them. Hence the phrase: ?don?t panic, just remember your training!? However, as we know only too well, in the movies male heroes are never afraid of anything.

    As a general rule of thumb, no matter what the task involves, the greater the importance of the goal to the achiever, the greater the anxiety level is likely to be. People at the top of their game in sports spend time finding ways to manage stress at critical moments, which tends to be at peak levels, e.g. when the competitor is right at the threshold of success.

    From my reading of his post, what ShyBoy refers to is the risk of focussing so much on the goal that you falter on the pathway to it. As a related aside, this is something that is very common in sexual dysfunction, i.e. when anxiety caused by over focussing on the end-goal causes a failure in the process of achieving that goal - one form of remedy being to switch attention to the process side of the sexual experience as a diversion away from the end result.

    What ShyBoy says about not handing in assignments could be explained by not having got to grips with a study plan that covers time-management, or/and, mixed feelings about the work being of a good enough standard, or/and, an element of psychological denial caused by needing to avoid the discomfort of facing the anxiety that has become associated with the process of assessment and the end-goal; or possibly a mixture of all these things.

    As for the context, it probably does have something to do with the tendency for young males to become hoodwinked by the machismo of rampant individualism inherent in the American dream, which has now (unfortunately) percolated through British society.

    Based on my own experience of studying at University, I don?t think females are any less affected by the stress and anxiety of study, rather, my observations are that they are better at finding ways of managing it. Partly through peer support, and partly through having good relationships with their tutors and feeling able to ask for help and support when needed. Another observation of mine was that some college tutors find providing support for pretty, young, and bright females, quite rewarding!

    Study per-se is likely to cause psychological discomfort and stress because it means moving out of unconscious incompetence into a state of conscious incompetence as a stage on the journey towards improving one's knowledge and skills. Tolerating a sense of incompetence, and also possibly confusion, can be quite stressful in itself, and it might be that some males find this aspect of study more demanding than others due to the image of the ?all knowing?, ?all confident? male portrayed in the fantasy world created by the media?

    But take heart guys in the fact that many of those females hooking up with their ?heroes? are in for a serious disappointed when they realise they?ve pulled a plain old human being with all such accompanying imperfections.

    As for any young males struggling with their course-work, I recommend worrying your tutor for some support.

    :)
    Jed

    PS

    For some reason on editing this post all the inverted commas turned into question marks!
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