Anxiety in Women


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I spend a most of my time treating anxiety in women. Therapy for women with anxiety is unique as are it's causes.   These pages will share what I know and learn about it.

Anxiety In Women: More Common Than in Men

Anxiety is more prevalent in women beginning in childhood.

Beginning as early as age 6, little girls are 2x as likely to have an anxiety disorder. This continues to adolescence when teen girls are 6 x likely to have a generalized anxiety disorder diagnosis. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder(OCD) seems to be one exception. In childhood, OCD is more prevalent in boys. But this doesn't last long. OCD later becomes more prevalent in women than men.

Adult women are more likely than men to have Panic Disorder, Agoraphobia, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and twice as likely to meet most phobias' criteria! Social Anxiety Disorder is the one phobia that has the least differences between the genders. It's just slightly more in women than men.

If you are looking to learn about the basic types of anxiety, this page has many pages on generalized anxiety, panic, ocd etc click here.

Women and Anxiety: Why is it more prevalent?

I think the simplest theory is probably the best answer. Women suffer extensive and systemic discrimination. The various forms of gender discrimination begin in early childhood in our families and impact us throughout our lives; it's no wonder we have anxiety.

 There are five below that I highlight.

1.Uncontrollability

 If you were raised in an environment where you weren't taught that you had control, you are more likely to interpret events as scary and threatening. Some research suggests the way boys are parented and taught gives them a stronger sense that they can create control and predictability and mastery in their lives. Research suggests that girls do not receive the same benefit. All of this may contribute to girls feeling less of a sense of creating predictability in their environment. This places them at greater risk of feeling anxiety.

Self-efficacy 

2. This refers to your belief in the ability to solve problems and situations. Again, research shows, boys are parented create a sense of autonomy and confidence, where the parenting style they use with girls creates less autonomy and a sense of internalizing failure. Literature on how students in the classrooms are educated support this same idea, with girls being given instruction in a way that undermines their self efficacy. This may explain why girls are more likely to experience anxiety later on. They have less confidence in their ability to problem solve and tackle tasks.

Worry 

3. Adult women worry much more than men, and worry is a component of anxiety. Interestingly when we look at what we know about worry guess what we find? Worry comes from low confidence and a low sense of control. This ties into the self-efficacy and uncontrollability mentioned above, which may come from how girls are socialized and parented. This socialization and parenting happens unconsciously from bias that teachers caregivers and parents may hold about girls. This speaks to unconscious bias.


Sensitivity to facial cues

4. Women are more sensitive to identifying facial cues, which play a strong role in social anxiety. The amygdala is the part of the brain responsible for this. Learn about this here! Many of my clients attempt to read others' emotions as a way to determine if others are mad at them, displeased with them, or judging them. This is known to play a strong role in several anxiety disorders and the fear response. It seems we are socialized this way, to prioritize pleasing others and feel responsible for their emotional states.

Rumination

5. Rumination has been found to prolong anxious moods. Compared to men, women are more likely to ruminate in response to a depressed mood. Rumination is driven by three beliefs, all of which women endorse more than men(again probably because of how we are socialized)

  • Negative emotions are difficult to control,
  • It's our responsibility to keep relationships positive
  • Negative events are hard to control

Women and Anxiety: Societal issues

Sexual Violence

  • One in 9 girls under the age of 18 experienced sexual abuse or assault at the hands of an adult


  • According to Rain Sexual violence on campus is pervasive. Among graduate and professional students, 9.7% of females experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence, or incapacitation.

  •  Among undergraduate students, 26.4% of females experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence, or incapacitation.

  • Sexual Assault in the Workplace It's hard to get a clear statistic on the number of women sexually harassed in the workplace but the numbers are 25- 85 percent. Many women are scared to report sexual harrasment in the workplace.

  • 75 percent of women who report sexual harassment experience retaliation.

  • K-12 Schools These statistics are even harder to find, but having worked with teen girls, I can tell you that every one of them I ever had in my office was sexually harassed in their school setting, and most of them did not know that what was happening was sexual harassment.

Gender Discrimination

Results suggest that discrimination and harassment are widely experienced by women across multiple domains of their lives, particularly those who are a racial/ethnic minority or LGBTQ.

Studies suggest that the experience of discrimination increases the body's stress response over time and that discrimination is linked to a range of poor health‐related behaviors, mental health outcomes, and physical health problems, including high blood pressure, heart disease, and mortality

Domestic Violence

  • According to the NCDAV.org, 19.3 million women in US are victims of stalkers 1 in 5 women have been raped
  • 1 in 4 women have been victims of severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime
  • BIPOQ or LBGTQ women face more difficulties across all of these domains and higher rates of anxiety.

Gender Pay Gap

Women earn less money than men and the gap is significantly higher among the college educated. This means we have to work harder to make the same amount of money even though this is illegal. The pay gap is wider among certain women of color.

  • Asian, 87 percent
  • White, non-Hispanic, 79 percent
  • Black or African American, 64 percent
  • Hispanic or Latina, 58 percent
  • Indigenous women 60 percent

Emotional labor

On top of this, we do more chores and continue to carry a greater mental load in our household. If you don't know about the concept of emotional labor, learn about it here, you've probably been doing it all your life and don't know it.

In my office, when I provide therapy for women, these issues come up over and over again. 


Bottom line is the odds have been stacked against us from the beginning, and we have to work hard against the odds to get healthy.

For women, getting better from anxiety takes a lot of work and must consider more than just evidenced based practice ( although that IS important). All of these issues play a role.

I provide therapy for women in my office and share what I can about how to help yourself on my website.

Anxiety and Women: Pages about Treatments

In these pages about anxiety in women, I share about treatments and whether or not they work.  Wondering whether  acupuncture works for anxiety?  Learn about marijuana and anxiety. Click here to learn about cognitive defusion strategies, weighted blankets, natural treatments such as valerian root, probiotics, magnesium. Click here to learn what we know about anxiety herbs ,anxiety and seroquel, and  anxiety and lexapro. Learn about breathing techniques for anxiety and how exercise might help. Learn about the definition of anxiety.

Anxiety and Women: Pages about Special issues


In these pages I share about special issues such as post partum anxiety, menopause anxiety, chest pain and anxiety, alcohol and anxiety, anxiety while driving, postelection anxietyanxiety at night, anxiety after drinking




Anxiety in Women references

McLean, C. P., & Anderson, E. R. (2009). Brave men and timid women? A review of the gender differences in fear and anxiety. Clinical Psychology Review, 29(6), 496-505. doi:10.1016/j.cpr.2009.05.003

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Medical information obtained from this website is not intended as a substitute for professional care. If you have or suspect you have a problem, you should consult a healthcare provider.