Common Anxiety Disorders in Women

Common Anxiety Disorders in Women
woman with anxiety

The Difference in Anxiety Disorders Between Women and Men

Anxiety is a normal human emotion. When it becomes overwhelming or negatively impacts your everyday life, then it becomes a disorder.

Anxiety disorders affect 20% of adults in the United States and over 200 million people around the world. Women, however, are diagnosed two times more than men. So, what are the common anxiety disorders in women, what are the symptoms and how are they best treated?

Common Types of Anxiety Disorders

●     Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

Women with GAD experience regular, excessive anxiety about everyday issues like money, family, relationships, work, or health. They often imagine the worst, even when there is little reason to expect the worst. It may keep some women from completing tasks, or they may avoid anxiety-inducing situations. It is commonly diagnosed in childhood through middle age. Women with GAD are also at risk for other anxiety disorders or depression.

●     Panic Disorders

Women are diagnosed with panic disorders two times more often than men. They are marked by sudden attacks of fear even when there is nothing to be afraid of. Physical reactions include a pounding or racing heartbeat, difficulty breathing, dizziness, chest pain, sweating, or chills.

●     Social Anxiety Disorder

When women become regularly anxious in social situations and it negatively affects their daily lives, they may be diagnosed with social anxiety disorder. People with social anxiety become easily embarrassed, fear meeting or talking to new people, and fear being judged by others. They can also experience symptoms of a panic attack.

●     Specific Phobias

Women with this disorder fear something specific even if or when it poses no danger. Examples of specific phobias include animal phobia (e.g. dogs, spiders, or snakes), environmental phobias (e.g. heights, water, or storms), and situational phobias (e.g. flying, small spaces like elevators, or closets).

Common Symptoms for Women With Anxiety Disorders

Along with the mental signs of anxiety disorders, women often experience physical symptoms. They include:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Feeling weak or dizzy
  • Feeling exhausted
  • Feeling nervous, irritable, or on edge
  • Nausea and other gastrointestinal disturbances
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Hot flashes or sweating
  • Shortness of breath or hyperventilation

Why Are Anxiety Disorders More Common in Women?

Traumatic events and genetics may be root causes of anxiety disorders in both women and men. Researchers, however, are still studying why women are diagnosed so much more often than men. Even among teenagers, girls are twice as likely to experience significant anxiety compared to boys. The only exception is social anxiety disorder, which affects men and women in equal numbers.

Some prominent theories include changes in hormones (specifically estrogen) throughout a woman’s menstrual and reproductive cycles, with some research focusing on disorders and depression during and after pregnancy.

But while there is no difference in age of onset or chronicity of anxiety, the way men and women react or deal with anxiety on their own is different. Women may be more likely to avoid situations that cause anxiety, while men may be more likely to self-medicate with substance abuse.

Treatment for Women With Anxiety Disorders

While treatment may vary depending on the exact diagnosis, typical solutions include counseling or cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), medicine, or a combination of both. Speaking with a psychiatrist or psychologist can help patients change patterns of thought or behavior and teach ways to reduce feelings of fear or anxiety. Self-care methods like yoga and meditation can also improve symptoms.

For over 30 years, The Ross Center has used professional care and empathy in our treatment of people with anxiety and depression. We use science and evidence-based research to inform solutions that are effective and long-lasting.

The Ross Center has offices in Northern Virginia, Washington D.C., and New York. Please contact us for more information or to request an appointment. We look forward to speaking with you. 

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