Gender Differences with Anxiety

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Table of Contents

What is Anxiety? Gender Differences with Anxiety

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illnesses in the United States, and they can affect approximately 264 million people worldwide. Women are twice as likely to develop an anxiety disorder than men, and each gender may present and describe the symptoms differently. Understanding gender differences with anxiety can potentially bring awareness to symptoms. This will hopefully contribute to more men and women seeking therapy to relieve stress in their life. Anxiety can cause excessive fear, nervousness, apprehension, and uncertainty. Generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety, phobias, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder are all considered common anxiety disorders. A licensed counselor may diagnose you with an anxiety disorder when you meet any of the following criteria almost daily for more than six months:

  • excessive worry
  • fatigue
  • difficulty concentrating
  • irritability
  • sleep disturbances
  • muscle tension
  • rapid heart rate
  • sweating
  • nausea
  • chest pain

Generalized Anxiety Disorders: severe, excessive, ongoing anxiety that disrupts daily activities

Panic Disorder: episodes of intense fear followed by physical symptoms, based on a perceived threat rather than imminent danger

Social Anxiety: nervousness when interacting with other people

Phobias: excessive, persistent fear of an object or situation

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: excessive thoughts (obsessions) that lead to disruptive and repetitive behaviors (compulsions)

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: difficulty recovering after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event

Women with Anxiety Gender Differences with Anxiety

Women are twice as likely to develop an anxiety disorder than men, and each gender may present and describe the symptoms differently. Scientists have some ideas as to why women have higher anxiety diagnosis rates. Dr. Charles Goodstein, a clinical professor of psychiatry at New York University Langone Medical Center, says “this may have an impact on psychological functioning.” One reason is that woman have more hormonal fluctuations caused by their menstrual cycles. Estrogen and progesterone are hormones that affect appetite, digestion, and energy levels. If these hormones are irregular, a woman’s mood can be affected. If she also experiences a difficult cycle, she may become apprehensive and worry about frequent aches and distress towards the following months.

Another reason women may experience anxiety more often than men is because women are more likely to experience sexual abuse and violence. Women who have been exposed to sexual abuse and violence may have an overwhelming sense of anxiety at all times, or they may have a sudden attack of intense fear. If a woman is in an abusive relationship, sometimes she may feel guilt and manipulation from her spouse. They may spend an excessive amount of time trying to reason why they are being abused. Women may either think about ways to get out of the relationship, or think about ways to cover up their injuries and make excuses for their partner.

Women that tend to take on a lot of responsibilities such as working a full-time job, cooking, cleaning, laundry, establishing childcare, etc., are more prone to anxiety symptoms. Sometimes women in these situations feel like they can never catch a break. This can be considered a cultural acceptance in our society – women tend to “do it all” – which can lead to overwhelming stress and exhaustion.

Studies have shown that women tend to seek help from medical professionals more often than men. For this reason alone, women are more likely to be diagnosed with a variety of health disorders, not just ones that are mental health related. Women tend to be more in tune with their health and report illnesses more frequently than men. This plays a role in one of the many reasons why women live longer! They are more likely to follow up with appointments and treatment after diagnoses as well.

Men with Anxiety

In an article written in Men’s Health magazine, author Mike Zimmerman explains how he had no idea what was happening to his body during his first panic attack. He stated that he was sure he was having either a stroke, a heart attack, or an aneurysm. Panic attacks are often misdiagnosed as other ailments. Men who are afraid of a panic attack being diagnosed as something more severe are less likely to seek treatment.

According to a survey conducted by Cleveland Clinic, men are less likely to participate in routine physicals. The chances of men seeking professional help when they feel they have a serious illness are even smaller. There tends to be a cultural bias that men who seek medical treatment feel that it lowers their masculinity. This heavily prevents men ever expressing symptoms, especially those who experience mental health disturbances. Men are often told to “man up” and hold their emotions inside which can be remarkably unhealthy. Men are also more likely to self-medicate with alcohol or drugs in order to avoid meeting with a mental health professional.

How to Help Both Genders

Early recognition of psychological stressors are important when treating anxiety. Regardless of gender, lifestyle changes are a critical part of reducing anxiety symptoms. Diet and exercise are one of many ways to eliminate stress in your life. Reducing technology use can be beneficial and make you feel more calm and alert. Instead of focusing on work, deadlines, and social media, try spending a few moments away from the computer or cell phone. Try to reduce your obligations and prioritize what is most important versus what can be done at another time. Make sure to make time for yourself as well. Learn your stressors and develop strategies for distraction. Many people find peace in going for a walk, reading a book, or journaling. You can even try different meditation and breathing techniques to alleviate anxiety.

How Can We Help?

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms it is important to get help. With the proper mental health advice, the overwhelming feelings of anxiety can be treated and we can help you get your health on track. We can provide mental health counseling for anxiety right here in our office. Please contact our office at (412)-532-1249 to schedule according to your availability and preferred location. 

About Makin Wellness

Founded in 2017 , Makin Wellness is Pittsburgh’s premier therapy & coaching centers located in Downtown Pittsburgh and Downtown New Kensington. The company’s mission is to help people heal and become happy again. Makin Wellness specializes in depression, anxiety, addiction, trauma, medical marijuana assisted treatment and relationship counseling.

Sara Makin MSEd, LPC, NCC

Sara Makin MSEd, LPC, NCC

All articles are written in conjunction with the Makin Wellness Research Team.

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