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The ABCs of Anxiety in Women

 

The ABCs of Anxiety in Women

 

Nurturing, selfless, caring, these are some of the words to describe women. Although their natural traits are admirable and unique, these can also be their pitfall. Women are more vulnerable to extreme emotional conditions such as anxiety. Men definitely experience anxiety; however, this level of emotional distress is more prevalent among women. Most people do not have a full grasp about what anxiety is, this gap leads to grave miscommunications and misunderstandings.

In the United States, anxiety disorder is recognized and affects many people; more of them are women. Briefly explained, the emotional condition is related to extreme worry or panic. There are various types, the most common ones are Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Social Anxiety Disorder, Separation Anxiety, panic attacks and disorders, Agoraphobia, Select Mutism, as well as other detailed phobias.

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) has stated, “Women are nearly twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder in their lifetime. In the past year, prevalence of any anxiety disorder was higher for females (23.4%) than for males (14.3%).” There are different ways to beat and prevent anxiety in women in its early stages. Prevention is essential to curb the path away from other conditions like depression. An ideal option is therapy.

 

The Long and Winding Road

It has been observed that the development of anxiety is more prevalent among women. Many people are not aware that anxiety is comparable to a chronic medical disorder. In the same way, anxiety also affects an individual’s health from an early age until their later years. The prevalence of anxiety becomes higher as women enter puberty and adolescence, since hormones begin to surge at this stage.

When women are on the precipice of motherhood, the possibility of anxiety begins to loom again. Motherhood can feel like the missing piece of the puzzle for most women, however, it is also the time for mood swings, baby worries and an overwhelming feeling of increased responsibilities. According to ADAA, “The high hormonal changes and fluctuations that occur during and after childbirth could cause mothers to feel intense mood swings called “the baby blues” which affects 80% of mothers.”  With anxiety in the room, raising a child can be more worrisome than it already is. 

Once the children are out of the house, most women think that they are safe from anxiety. Although an anxiety free life is possible, aging and menopause still have something to contribute to experiencing this emotional condition. The transition from a reproductive to a non-reproductive body may also result in anxiety-ridden days. New worries will surface as the years of retirement are ushered in. It is best to have some awareness about the different risk factors for anxiety in women to better prepare for its possible onslaught. Some of these include, body weakness, decreasing functionality, increasing physical disability and proneness to chronic medical and cognitive disorders.

 

The Increased Risk for Women

Whether it is during childhood, puberty, adolescence or adulthood, the risk of experiencing anxiety is always higher for women. As stated by Women’s Health Matters:

 

  • girls are six times more likely to develop generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
  • boys have higher rates of OCD until puberty, when it evens out
  • women are more likely than men to have panic disorder, GAD, agoraphobia and PTSD
  • women are twice as likely as men to have a phobia
  • there are the least gender differences in social anxiety and OCD

 

Apart from the increased risk, women are more challenged with the symptoms of particular types of anxiety. There are specific differences between men and women, which are:

 

  • women have a greater tendency to experience body-based symptoms
  • those who experience panic attacks are likely to manifest “shortness of breath, faintness, and smothering sensations”
  • common OCD symptoms with/or excessive cleanliness
  • panic disorder tends to be chronic in women
  • anxious women are at higher risk for other types of anxiety, such as GAD, separation anxiety, social anxiety, including somatization disorder and agoraphobia

 

Although anxiety can occur at any period in a person’s life, women particularly are more at risk during the perinatal period. This is the time during pregnancy up to three months from childbirth. Many wonder as to why this period increases risk of anxiety, to that, however, there is no clear explanation. The difference is not conclusive, with biological theories in mind. What can be said is that various factors can trigger anxiety; these factors are biological, socio-cultural and emotional in nature.

 

The Factors Causing Anxiety

If it is still confusing you why girls and women are more likely to experience anxiety, you are not alone. Even science does not seem to have the answer. The statement “women are twice as likely as men to develop anxiety,” may easily generate nods from people. Although there seems to be a trend, however, the clear explanation to support this is still not available. Theories point toward the difference of reproductive hormones found in men and women. Women’s Health states that, “Changes in levels of the hormone estrogen throughout a woman’s menstrual cycle and reproductive life (during the years a woman can have a baby) probably play a role.”

The aforementioned theory is supported by estrogen and testosterone research. The latter is a hormone both men and women produce, higher levels are found in men. For women, the hormone serves to regulate mood and sexuality. “Too little testosterone has been linked with increased anxiety. Female sex hormones, such as estrogen, may also be linked to anxiety symptoms.” With this theory, hormone therapy became a known treatment option, apart from counseling also known as therapy.

Another widely discussed factor is the socio-cultural aspect in women’s lives. The vulnerability of women is often linked to existing social conditions. Being looked upon as passive and mild, they have played domesticated roles for a long time, while men have traditionally performed more active roles in society. Scientists studying social behaviors express that because women are used to being in the “passenger seat,” they are not accustomed to taking active and decisive roles. This could be among the reasons why decision making can cause them great stress and worry.

 

The Options of Therapy

Hormone therapy may sound intimidating for many women. This is basically done by correcting the hormone levels in the body to ensure the body functions as well as it can. Although it offers promising results, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is still not widely available. This is not immediately recommended for social anxiety. The usual safe initial step to take is counseling or therapy.

Anxiety can affect the quality of your life and relationships if not addressed properly. Since there are so many types of anxiety, it is helpful to be familiar with the symptoms. Common symptoms to watch out for according to ADAA are:

 

  • Feeling nervous, irritable or on edge
  • Having a sense of impending danger, panic or doom
  • Having an increased heart rate
  • Breathing rapidly (hyperventilation), sweating, and/or trembling
  • Feeling weak or tired
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Having trouble sleeping
  • Experiencing gastrointestinal (GI) problems

 

If you feel that anxiety is something that you or a loved one struggles with, take the initial step and seek treatment. You can determine your options and have the symptoms of anxiety in women assessed by contacting the professionals independently contracted with Carolina Counseling Services – Pinehurst, NC.

Therapies that can be recommended are talk therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). These therapies can peel off the surface and really pinpoint the reason/s as to why one is struggling with anxiety. Therapy is ideal as it assists in modifying the way you respond to situations that are usually anxiety-triggering. It can rewire how you think, specifically regarding fears. You can discover new ways to regulate your reaction and behavior toward these fears. An important point to consider is that therapy does not have the side effects that are typically expected from medications and hormonal therapy.

 

If anxiety is holding you back, call CCS – Pinehurst, NC for help today!

Serving Areas: Carolina Counseling Services – Pinehurst, NC

Counties: Moore county, NC, Lee County, Hoke County, Chatham County

Areas: Pinehurst NC, West End NC, Taylortown NC, Seven Lakes NC, Eagle Springs NC, Jackson Springs NC, Foxfire NC, Candor NC, Norman NC, Ellerbe NC, Rockingham NC

Zip Codes: 27281, 27376, 28315, 28347, 28350, 28373, 28374, 28387, 28388, 28394

Kelly ErkenBrack, LCSW

Specializes in: (Ages 3+) Children, Teens, Adults, Couples and Families. Anxiety, Depression, Grief and Loss, Mood Disorders, Trauma, Adjustments and Life Transitions, ADHD, Behavioral Issues, Parenting, Relationship Concerns, Self Esteem
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Location: Pinehurst, NC

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