Anxiety Disorders in Women

November 19, 2013

Anxiety Disorders in Women


“Women have higher overall prevalence rates for anxiety disorders than men. Women are also much more likely than men to meet lifetime criteria for each of the specific anxiety disorders: generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), social anxiety disorder (SAD), post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), simple phobia, panic disorder, and agoraphobia” (Pigott TA, 2003).

Anxiety disorders are widespread psychological problems.  Anxiety is normal and helpful to us if the intensity is not severe. But, when it lingers for days after the anxiety-triggering event, it turns into a troubling disorder. Women are diagnosed with anxiety disorders at twice the rate of men, according to the Anxiety Disorders Association of America. Is there a biological reason behind women’s tendency to be victimized by anxiety more often than men? Are we raising our girls in a way that makes them more anxious? Some people rationalize the disparity by claiming that men are simply less likely to admit to suffering from any psychological problem, but the fact is, no one knows, and all of these questions need to be answered.

Anxiety disorders in women can negatively affect their social life, work and relationships. It reduces their feeling of self-worth. Many factors can cause anxiety in women, including biological, psychological, and social factors. For example, women have to deal with the considerable biological issues related to pregnancy and childbirth. Young girls can get anxious at the start of menstrual cycles. There is also the immense responsibility of being both a wife and a mother, which can sometimes trigger negative thoughts and fears. In addition, the different ways which parents raise their children and discriminate between genders has an impact on our personalities. Young girls are expected to be polite, sensitive and nice. Boys are taught not to cry because it’s not a “manly” thing to do. These parental approaches are universal and could very well be a factor behind women’s high rate in anxiety.

The most common anxiety disorder faced by women is social phobia, which is an extreme fear of being embarrassed or judged by others. Women are more concerned and care more about their public image and appearance than men. Living in a patriarchal world, where men have greater authority in most of the institutions of society, the anxiety faced by women struggling to make their way is realistic.  It is normal to be nervous while giving a presentation to a meeting room full of male colleagues but sweating, freezing or shaking in front of them as you give your presentation is not normal, and is a sign of a social phobia.
Generalized anxiety disorder is unreasonable excessive worry about past, present or future events. Triggers can include relationship problems, a recent divorce, the loss of a loved one or just about any traumatic event or natural disaster. Women are considered to be more sensitive by society, which means they are more likely to allow themselves to worry. Research from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia concluded that the female brain may be less able to adjust to high levels of stress hormones and is also more sensitive to them. Specific phobias include irrational fears about a particular thing or event. Women are mostly afraid of animals, insects and darkness. When a woman is stricken by an obsessive compulsive disorder, she is anxious and remains anxious unless she acts on a compulsion to lessen her obsessions. Women tend to be more obsessed about locking doors, washing their hands because of a fear of germs, putting things in what they feel is the proper order, nail biting or hair pulling. When having an anxiety attack; women feel more fearful than simply feeling sad or worried, as in depression. Anxiety disorders pose a threat to a woman’s health, because it can lead to symptoms such as insomnia, dizziness or headaches, among other things.

Experts have developed some strategies to overcome panic and fear in women and everyone else. Exercise and yoga have a strong connection to improved mental health, and a psychotherapist can show relaxation exercises that can help relieve you. Eating healthy food and avoiding junk and over-processed food can also help, as can discussing your feelings with a friend or family member. The relief we get after sharing our problems with someone is irrefutable, so go ahead and do so. Participate in social activities. Sleep well.  Some women believe that being a wife and mother requires giving it their all, but, being a human, you have the right to receive some, too. Give some of your time to yourself, too. You deserve to live a life without fear and worry.

1.      Pigott TA. Anxiety disorders in women. Psychiatric Clinics of North America. 2003 Sep; 26 (3):621-72, vi-vii.


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