Most people deal with anxiety throughout their lives. However, women seem to get more severe anxiety disorders than men. Why, and what can be done about it? Read on for more information.
What Are Anxiety Disorders?
Occasional anxiety is something we all face. You could feel anxious when confronted with a work problem, before taking an examination, or before signing a mortgage agreement. But anxiety disorders are more than just momentary worry or fear. For someone with an anxiety disorder, the anxiety does not go away and can get worse over time. The symptoms can wreak chaos with daily life, including disrupting your job performance, schoolwork, and even your interpersonal relationships.
Anxiety Disorders & Their Symptoms
If you have generalized anxiety disorder, you may exhibit intense anxiety or worry, nearly every day for six months or more, about many topics like your health, job, social connections, routine, or daily life circumstances. In short, fear and anxiety can disrupt and interfere with all aspects of your life. Symptoms include:
- You feel restless or on-edge
- You’re easily tired
- Problems thinking, feeling like your mind is blank
- You’re easily irritated
- Muscle tension
- Problems controlling your worry
- Difficulty sleeping, either getting to sleep, staying asleep, or waking early.
Panic Disorder can result in recurring unforeseen panic attacks. The attacks are short periods of extreme fear that happen quickly and can reach peak intensity within minutes. Panic disorder symptoms may include:
- Heart palpitations, a throbbing heartbeat, or a quickened heart rate
- Shortness of breath
- You feel like doom is just around the corner
- You feel like you’re out of control
Phobia-related disorders are characterized by an intense fear of — or loathing toward — particular objects or situations. Symptoms may include:
- Irrational or extreme worry about facing a feared object or situation
- You purposely take steps to stay away from the thing or situation you’re fearful of
- If you encounter the trigger object or situation, you then experience immediate, intense anxiety
- If you can’t avoid a problematic object or situation, you endure it with severe anxiety
Why Are Anxiety Disorders More Common In Women?
Frontiers in Psychology states: “According to the DSM-5, social anxiety disorder (SAD) is characterized by a persistent fear of one or more social or performance situations in which the person is exposed to unfamiliar people or possible scrutiny by others, which is often associated with avoidance of social situations. With an odds ratio of 1.5–2.2, SAD is nearly twice as prevalent in women than in men. Further empirical evidence on gender differences indicates that psychosocial stress affects fear conditioning in men and women differently.”
It’s not fair to say that women are more fragile than men, and that’s why they get anxiety disorders more often than men. That kind of societal perception has existed for thousands of years and may not end anytime soon. The U.S. National Institutes of Health sought to explore that topic, but conclusions were muddled at best.
However, when you look at the numbers, women have a higher risk of experiencing an anxiety disorder. Here are some of the reasons why.
- A women’s monthly cycle may impact anxiety levels.
- Female hormones add to a more effortlessly triggered, lengthier-acting fight-or-flight reaction.
- Investigations have revealed the hormone testosterone, which is more plentiful in men, may help reduce anxiety symptoms.
- Women are more susceptible to modest hormone levels that compound the stress response.
- Women suffer residual anxiety from different kinds of abuse and violence at a greater rate than men.
- Women are more open than men to solicit help for anxiety, meaning they’re diagnosed more often.
Diagnosis & Treatment
If you experience symptoms of an anxiety disorder, talk with your healthcare provider. This will likely result in a thorough overview of your personal and family medical history and a physical examination.
Unlike other health conditions or illnesses, there isn’t a definitive lab test or scan that can help to diagnose anxiety disorders. But your doctor may recommend some of these tests as a means of ruling out physical conditions that could be triggering symptoms. You may also be referred to a mental health specialist for a psychiatric assessment before beginning treatment, including medicine or ketamine therapy.
If you’re a woman suffering from an anxiety disorder, you may already have a slight advantage over a man with the same condition. Why? Because women are more receptive than men to getting diagnosed and finding treatment and, as a result, may control symptoms more effectively with medicine like ketamine.