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Under the Lens: Anxiety in Women

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Under the Lens: Anxiety in Women


Women’s maternal instinct is typically naturally caring, putting the needs of loved ones first most of the time. They are unique in this way which why this inherent trait is a reason for their increased vulnerability to emotional conditions, such as anxiety? It is difficult to say because women’s anxiety is not clearly understood.  What is clear is that though both genders can succumb to anxiety, more women experience anxiety compared to men.

Anxiety disorder is a real, troubling issue for many people in the United States, especially for women.  It is an emotional condition that involves excessive worry or fear. It has many types. The most prevalent ones are GAD or generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, separation anxiety, panic attacks and panic disorder, agoraphobia, selective mutism, and other specific phobias.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), “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%).” To beat women’s anxiety early on its path and to prevent it from precipitating other emotional conditions like depression, therapy can help.


The Long Journey

Throughout life, the tendency to develop anxiety is higher among females. It is a real condition compared to a chronic medical disorder that looms from their early age and until they become seniors. From an early age, and especially as they enter puberty and adolescence, their vulnerability rises along with their surging reproductive hormones.

On the brink of motherhood, the risk comes rolling again. Motherhood can complete you, but it can also be a time for mood swings, worrying about the baby, more responsibilities and possibilities, transitions, etc. 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.”  When anxious, life can become more frightening as you raise your child.

If you think aging and menopause will save you from anxiety, it is time to give your fears a second look. Your risk will again increase as you transition from a reproductive to a non-reproductive life. The retirement years may usher new fears among senior women as one is engulfed with a number of risk factors for anxiety in women – the increasing physical concerns, increasing physical limitations and decreasing functionality, and susceptibility to chronic medical and cognitive issues.


Why Women are Vulnerable


The risk for anxiety in women is higher, starting from childhood through adolescence until adulthood. According to Women’s Health Matters:


  • girls are six times more likely to develop generalized anxiety disorder
  • 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


Aside from having a higher risk, they also tend to have a greater difficulty with certain specific symptoms or types of anxiety. Women’s Health Matters shares these differences between the two genders:


  • women have a greater tendency to experience body-based symptoms
  • those who have panic attacks are likely to manifest “shortness of breath, faintness, and smothering sensations”
  • common OCD symptoms related to 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


While anxiety may develop any time throughout life, the risk for women peaks around the perinatal period. This is during pregnancy and three months after childbirth. Could there be a certain reason why the risk is higher during the said period? There is no clear explanation what is causing the predisposition and there are no conclusive differences, insofar as the biological theories are concerned. Alongside biological factors, socio-cultural and emotional reasons may also contribute to their vulnerability.


The Influencing Factors

You are not the only one baffled by the high prevalence of anxiety among girls and women. Science is too! Though there is still no crystal-clear explanation as to why women are “twice as likely as men to develop anxiety,” it is believed that the primary difference in the men’s and women’s responses lies in their reproductive hormones. The “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,” says Women’s Health.

The hypothesis is substantiated by studies on estrogen and the use of testosterone, a reproductive hormone secreted by both men and women, but at higher levels in men. It functions in regulating mood (and sexuality) in women, According to Very Well Mind, “Too little testosterone has been linked with increased anxiety. Female sex hormones, such as estrogen, may also be linked to anxiety symptoms.”  This is the basis for using hormonal therapy in the treatment of anxiety. There are, of course, other treatment options. One is counseling or therapy.

On another note, one interesting conjecture that receives wide support is the role of the social-cultural factors in the lives of women. It is believed that the social conditioning of women to take a mild, even passive stance in life could be linked to their vulnerability. For such a long time, women have played domesticated roles, giving men the active position to do difficult tasks and make decisions. Social scientists are of the opinion that women may have gotten used to a more sedate, protected lifestyle. Not used to taking an active role in decision making, they can become easily stressed and worried.


Therapy as a Treatment Option

Hormone therapy sounds fanciful, correcting a woman’s hormone levels to keep her functioning well.  Presently, however, the application of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) remains limited.  It isn’t something that will be recommended because you have social anxiety. At the frontline is counseling or therapy.

It is important that you recognize the symptoms of anxiety. Because there are so many types, there are over a hundred possible signs and symptoms. The common ones, 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 or a loved one is exhibiting or manifesting some of the symptoms, take a step forward. Seek treatment. To know your options and for your symptoms to be assessed properly, seek professional help from a qualified counselor/therapist independently contracted with Carolina Counseling Services – North Fayetteville Office – Fayetteville, NC.

Talk therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) are just two approaches that can help unmask the symptoms of anxiety in women, address and ease your symptoms. Therapy can help modify the way you respond to stimuli that may trigger anxious responses. It can alter the way you think, particularly concerning your fears. You may discover other ways of allaying your fear and refining certain related behaviors. The best thing about it is, it can do the job without the side effects of medications and hormonal therapy.


Is feeling anxious preventing you from living your dream life. Call CCS – North Fayetteville Office – Fayetteville, NC today.

Serving Areas: Carolina Counseling Services

Counties: Cumberland, Bladen and Sampson Counties, NC
Areas: Fayetteville NC, Ft Bragg NC, Pope Field NC, Sliver City NC, Linden NC, Bowmore NC, Autryville NC, Bunnlevel NC, Erwin NC, Dundarrach NC, Pineview NC, Rex NC, Lemon Springs NC, Johnsonville NC, Eastover NC, Stedman NC and Wade, NC
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422 McArthur Road, Suite 2
FayettevilleNC 28311

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  • Becky Clark, MSW, LCSW

    Specializes in: (Ages 18+) Anxiety, Depression, Individuals, Couples, Geriatrics, Criminal Justice, Stress Management, Loss and Grief related to death, disability, divorce, deployment, “empty nest”, retirement and other major life transitions
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