Anxiety Symptoms In Women: Combatting Them With Confidence
Updated August 28, 2020
Medically Reviewed By: Whitney White, MS. CMHC, NCC., LPC
Everyone experiences a little anxiety once in a while-before speaking in public, before playing in a big game, or being unexpectedly put on the spot. The anxiety is short-lived and dissipates as soon as the event is over. Anxiety disorders aren’t so temporary or so easy for everyone.
Some people that live with an anxiety disorder can go through life and be content or even happy, as long as they can avoid going to social events. This is a sign of anxiety that surpasses normal anxiety and it’s classified as a social anxiety disorder. If you’ve experienced a tragedy in your life, and you’ve noticed that you’ve become anxious and hypervigilant since the event, you’re probably dealing with an anxiety disorder called PTSD. These are just two classifications of an anxiety disorder.
From a geographical standpoint, anxiety disorders don’t discriminate. However, the same isn’t true for gender. Anxiety disorders fall into specific categories and they’re far more common in women. Anxiety disorders have been studied extensively. On a positive note, the treatment for anxiety disorders in women is generally quite effective.
Understanding Anxiety Disorders
The term anxiety disorder is a general term for a classification of disorders. What separates the normal anxiety that can happen to anyone from a specific psychiatric disorder? The term anxiety disorder always involves extreme fear or worry. Depending on the symptoms, anxiety disorders can be classified into specific disorders including:
- Generalized anxiety disorder
- Panic disorder and panic attacks
- Social anxiety disorder
- Selective mutism
- Separation anxiety
- Specific phobias
Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is a type of anxiety disorder that causes extreme worry and anxiety about events that occur during the normal course of a woman’s day. When problems that pertain to work, health, money, family, work, or friendships begin to pile up and begin to disrupt your everyday life by disrupting your job, school, or family, it may be time to seek treatment.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder, which is also known as OCD, is an anxiety disorder that is characterized by a repetitive cycle of obsessions and compulsions.
People that have spontaneous or unexpected panic attacks may be diagnosed with panic disorder, which can be intense. In between panic attacks, women may have intense anxiety because of the fear of having another panic attack.
Post-traumatic stress disorder is more commonly known as PTSD. Most people connect the term PTSD with post-war veterans. Women may be more likely to experience PTSD. ADAA reports that about five of every ten women have experienced a traumatic event. The types of trauma that women experience tend to be different than that of men. Women also tend to be more easily startled than men and they’re more inclined to feel numb and emotionless. Women tend to feel depressed and anxious more often than men and avoid things that remind them of the trauma. Unlike men, women are less inclined to self-medicate with alcohol or drugs after the trauma. Before diagnosis and treatment, women may experience symptoms of PTSD up to four times longer than men.
Social anxiety manifests as an anxiety disorder that causes severe anxiety in social situations. This disorder is also referred to as a social phobia. A therapist may offer a diagnosis of social anxiety when someone worries extensively about acting anxious or being viewed by others as stupid, awkward, boring, or weird in every social situation. As a result, they tend to isolate and avoid social situations altogether. Women living with social anxiety are apt to experience symptoms like a racing heart, nausea, or sweating. Symptoms of social anxiety can be extreme enough to disrupt a woman’s daily functioning. Signs of social anxiety may begin during the teen years.
Anxiety Symptoms in Women Are Common
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), researchers have determined that anxiety disorders are the most pervasive and common disorders in the United States. Approximately 264 million people in the world live with symptoms of some type of anxiety disorder. According to the HHS Office on Women’s health, across their lifetimes, women are almost 50% more likely to be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder than men.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Anxiety in Women?
- Having feelings of nervousness, irritability, or feeling edgy
- Feeling a sense of panic, danger, or impending doom
- The heart starts beating faster or racing
- Breathing speeds up causing hyperventilation, perspiration or trembling
- Feeling fatigued or weak
- Difficulty thinking and making decisions
- Having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep
- Experiencing stomachaches or trouble with digestion
How Do Clinicians Treat Symptoms of Anxiety in Women?
For the most part, the treatment options for women are the same as for adolescents and men. Women experience hormonal changes throughout their lives which can cause anxiety to worsen or improve. Women that have been diagnosed with anxiety disorder, or those who desire to become pregnant, should seek advisement about their treatment options from their physician.
ADAA notes that the underlying processes for anxiety disorders are much the same for all types of anxiety disorders.
One of the most notable symptoms of anxiety disorders in women is becoming easily overwhelmed by their emotions and having distinct negative reactions to situations that cause them to be anxious. Many people mistakenly believe that the best way to avoid the symptoms of anxiety is to consciously avoid situations and circumstances that they fear will make them anxious. In many cases, this is the worst way to deal with anxiety. Avoiding situations can exacerbate a situation and increase existing anxiety.
The most common and most effective treatment for an anxiety disorder is a type of psychotherapy called cognitive-behavioral therapy, or CBT. This type of therapy works by helping women to understand how their thoughts contribute to their anxiety symptoms. Therapists use CBT to guide women through the process of identifying and managing the factors that contribute to their anxiety.
The cognitive component of CBT therapy is the part that helps women better understand the connection between their thoughts and the symptoms of their anxiety disorder. Once they’ve been able to understand this connection, a therapist can work with them to change their thought patterns. By helping women see things in a new way, it decreases the likelihood of experiencing the symptoms of anxiety disorder or reducing their intensity.
The other part of CBT is the behavioral component. This part of the therapy helps women to focus on the behavior that’s linked with their anxiety disorder. When they’re facing an activity that’s likely to cause anxiety, a therapist can help them connect anxiety symptoms in women to the outcomes they fear. For example, if a woman has social anxiety, CBT would help her understand that her thoughts leading up to an extended family gathering might cause her to feel anxious. A therapist may help her determine what behaviors are related to the way she is acting and help her choose new behaviors.
What Psychotherapy for Anxiety Disorders Is Like
Collaboration is a big part of psychotherapy. Psychologists work with their patients to learn more about specific concerns. This work sets the stage for helping women develop specific skills and techniques to help them cope with anxiety symptoms. Women can expect to have opportunities to practice their new skills outside of sessions to help them gain confidence in situations that make them uncomfortable. This is nothing to worry about. Psychologists delay this part of the therapy until they’re certain that their patients will be successful in confronting and managing their fears.
Complementary and Alternative Therapies for Anxiety Disorders
Some psychologists recommend complementary or alternative therapies for treating anxiety symptoms in women.
Many women benefit from group psychotherapy which provides the dual benefit of treating anxiety and offering support for patients in a group setting.
The symptoms of anxiety often impact family members. Family psychotherapy works to help other members of the family to better understand anxiety and help them all work together to interact in ways that reduce anxious habits in the patient.
Something as simple as increasing physical activity can be effective for treating anxiety. Being physically active raises the level of chemicals in the brain that control moods. Yoga and Tai Chi are a couple of good ways to reduce the symptoms of anxiety and depression. Alternative therapies are often effective with social anxiety.
Women that enjoy meditation may find that it reduces their anxiety symptoms. Regular meditation boosts the brain activity that controls joy and serenity in some women.
Symptoms of anxiety make some women feel as if they’ll never be able to function or face normal, everyday situations without feeling anxious and panicky. For many women that opt for CBT treatment, they notice an improvement in their condition after the first few sessions. Most women have drastically reduced symptoms or no symptoms at all after several months of treatment.
If you’re suffering from social anxiety, generalized anxiety, or some other type of anxiety, BetterHelp is available to help you find an online therapist that can help you feel better as soon as possible. You don’t have to continue living with symptoms of anxiety. Help is available.
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