My dear fellow females, I'm sorry to inform you of this, but . . .
You are twice as likely to have an anxiety disorder in your lifetime as men.
This is probably no surprise to you, and if you've dealt with anxiety before, just reading about your predisposition to it might make you feel, well, anxious. I've had several episodes of intermittent and (ugh) persistent anxiety, and the symptoms you experience are formidable. I'd rather have the flu for a month than experience anxiety for a week.
Everyone feels anxious from time to time -- waiting for test results, prior to a big speech, or interviewing for a job. But this post is about anxiety gone rogue -- anxiety that knocks you flat on your butt and makes you want to jump out of your own skin. This is the foot-shaking, sweat producing, breath stealing miscreant who reduces you to a shadow of your pre-anxiety self.
The grand schemer who constructed the female psyche must have been in a foul mood the day he (it couldn't have been a she!) decided to dish out a bigger dose of anxiety disorders to women. Isn't it enough we have to push out babies and have periods? No matter how unfair the imbalance, it's a sad fact that millions of women deal with some form of anxiety every day. That's too much unnecessary suffering.
Anxiety disorders are the most common type of mental health problem in the United States -- more so than depression. And according to the National Institute of Mental Health, there are some legitimate reasons why women carry the anxiety load:
- Lifestyle. Women as a general population are more likely than men to live in poverty, be subject to discrimination, and be sexually and physically abused.
- Hormones. Compared to men, women experience much more fluctuation in hormone levels associated with symptoms of anxiety and depression. Numerous studies confirm that anxiety often begins during periods of significant hormonal change, including the prime ages of pregnancy and during menopause.
- Thinking habits. Women are significantly more inclined to have negative emotions, engage in self-criticism, and ruminate about problems.
- Learned behavior. As children, girls who are shy or anxious are more often reinforced for these behaviors. Little boys who are shy and anxious might be shamed and punished for them. It appears girls are socially conditioned to be more passive, internalizing their stress and fears.
The reasons why you are anxious may provide useful insight and reduce secondary anxiety -- the anxiety you have about being anxious. But the more valuable effort is unraveling the symptoms and triggers and learning exactly what you're dealing with related to your particular anxiety disorder.
Anxiety disorders come in a variety of flavors, each with an array of symptoms that make life feel scary and exhausting.