Masculinity Is Masking Anxiety
The acceptable range of emotions for men is making it hard to recognize red flags — and get treatment
It was early in the 2017 NBA season when starting center Kevin Love realized his mental health was affecting his ability to play basketball — a fact that, when he wrote about it several months later, surprised many.
On the surface, the Cleveland Cavaliers player had little to be anxious about. Sure, his team lost the NBA Finals several months before to the Golden State Warriors. But athletes are accustomed to loss, and they learn how to process and then move past it. Besides, the year before, the Lebron James-led Cavaliers finally bested the Warriors to win the 2016 NBA Championship and make history. It was the only time an NBA team down three games to one in a finals series came back to win. Love was even singled out in the press afterward as being the instrumental piece in the remaining minutes of the seventh and final game, when his hard-nosed defense prevented Stephen Curry, Golden State’s best shooter, from tying the score.
Then, during the third quarter of a game in November 2017, Love was in the locker room instead of on the court. “I ended up on the floor in the training room, lying on my back, trying to get enough air to breathe,” Love wrote later in a March 2018 essay for The Players’ Tribune. “It was like my body was trying to say to me, You’re about to die.”
Intense fear, distress, and a racing heart: All were classic symptoms of a panic attack. In his essay, Love shared with the wider world what it was like to experience one, and his ongoing struggles with his mental health.
Anxiety disorders are the most common type of mental disorders, afflicting roughly 1 in 5 adults in the United States. These include panic attacks, post-traumatic stress, social anxiety, and generalized anxiety disorder, a sort of constant worry that can impede a person’s daily life. Data suggests that about 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men will have an anxiety disorder at some point during their lives. But psychologists and researchers who study anxiety note that it’s men with anxiety who tend to fly under the radar when it comes to treatment: Since symptoms of anxiety are self-reported, clinicians and researchers who study…