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Women and Mental Health: Anxiety

Women and Mental Health: Anxiety and Depression

People are beginning to discuss anxiety and depression more and, as the stigma is waning, it is important to know the symptoms to recognize the need for helping yourself and those that are close to you. Statistics show that women report anxiety and depression more than men. Fortunately, anxiety and depression are both treatable, and help is just one step away.

Anxiety’s Occurrence in Women

For many women across America, anxiety is more than a passing phase. Instead, it is a response to stress and tension that can affect a woman’s ability to function in her daily life. Anxiety causes often unfounded feelings of danger, fear or anticipation of a negative outcome.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, women are twice as likely to experience an anxiety disorder as a man. For women, anxiety is also likely to occur with other mental health conditions, such as depression or obsessive-compulsive disorder. These feelings may be caused by or lead to substance abuse, known as co-occurring disorders.

While every woman is likely to experience feelings of anxiety from time to time, women who have frequent and prolonged anxiety often have imbalances of neurotransmitters in the brain that control stress response. As a result, anxiety may not subside until a woman seeks medical attention for her continued anxiety.

Do You Have Anxiety?

Sometimes, women may be hesitant to seek treatment for their anxiety because they may not recognize their physical or emotional symptoms as being the result of anxiety. Physical symptoms associated with anxiety include:

  • Increased blood pressure
  • Nausea and/or diarrhea
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Rapid breathing rate
  • Muscle tension

When a woman experiences anxiety that persists for six months or more, we call this an anxiety disorder. An anxiety disorder can cause a woman to change her behavior and may identify with the following statements:

  • I avoid certain situations, such as social events or new opportunities, because I’m afraid something bad will happen to me or I will look silly.
  • I constantly ask others if I’m doing okay or need frequent reassurance to feel okay about my job, relationships or other aspects of my life.
  • I’m always focused on making things right or perfect. I will often check, repeat, or over-prepare for something because I’m afraid it won’t go well otherwise.
  • I get nervous in situations and I’m often fidgeting or restless.

At anxiety’s most extreme, a woman may fear even leaving her home. She also may turn to self-medication, such as drinking or using drugs, to reduce the feelings of anxiety.

Anxiety Disorder Types

Doctors divide anxiety disorders into several categories. Each disorder can be treated with medications, counseling and support services, such as group therapy. Examples include:

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder: A person feels as if they are in a constant state of worry or anxiety. Twice as many women as men experience this condition.
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: Experiencing frequent, persistent thoughts or impulses that cause a person to engage in obsessive thoughts or behaviors.
  • Panic Attacks: Occurring when a person experiences extreme feelings of anxiety, such as rapid heart rate, sweating, shaking and feeling as if they can’t catch their breath.
  • Panic Disorder: Experiencing repeated panic attacks or severe fear that a panic attack will occur.
  • Phobias: Irrational fears of objects, living beings or certain situations.
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: This occurs after a traumatic event, such as sexual abuse or a natural disaster.

Anxiety Is Treatable

Focused treatment is available for people who struggling with anxiety on a case-by-case basis. Usually, anxiety is treated with a combination of psychotherapy and medication to target symptoms and environmental triggers that could be causing anxiety. Counseling can take the form of individual therapy, group therapy, and family therapy.

Depression’s Occurrence in Women

Sadness is a feeling every woman experiences at some point. When sadness, along with other negative feelings, persist for more than a few days at a time, you could be experiencing depression.

Approximately 15 million people in the United States experience depression each year, and most are women. In 2014, a study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported:

  • Females had higher rates of depression than males in every age group.
  • The highest rate of depression was found in women in the 40-59 age group.
  • The lowest rates of depression were for males under 17 and men 60 and older.

Women are twice as likely as men to suffer from depression. Depression is also the most significant mental health risk for women. Left untreated, depression can lead to unemployment, poverty, sickness, substance abuse and suicide.

It’s believed that depression is more prevalent in women due to differences and changes in hormone levels. The hormonal changes that occur at puberty, during and after pregnancy and during menopause could all be factors that differentiate women from men when it comes to depression.

Do You Have Depression?

Depression is also called major depressive disorder. It’s characterized by feelings of sadness or loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed and it’s accompanied by four or more of the following symptoms:

  • Changes in sleeping habits
  • Changes in appetite or weight
  • Listlessness
  • Malaise
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • Difficulties thinking or concentrating
  • Decision-making problems
  • Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide

Other signs that someone is experiencing depression include:

  • Restlessness, irritability or excessive crying
  • Recurring physical ailments that don’t respond to treatment like stomach problems, headaches or chronic pain.

Addiction and Depression

Addiction and depression are common co-existing disorders in women. Left untreated or undertreated, depression can lead to self-medication, which in turn can lead to drug dependence. Conversely, abusing substances like alcohol or drugs can lead to depression because abusing substances alters brain chemistry, which can lead to a depressive mood disorder.

Depression Is Treatable

About two thirds of people who experience major depressive disorder don’t get the help they need. Once a person is diagnosed as having depression, in most cases it can be successfully treated by using psychotherapy and/or prescription medications. Mental health care using a combination of therapy and medication can help you find the way out and successfully treat this mood disorder. By adding specialized addiction treatment to the plan, substance abuse problems can be successfully treated as well.

The Bottom Line

Anxiety and depression is prevalent particularly dangerous in the United States because, for many, it goes undiagnosed and untreated by healthcare workers who do not have the mental health education or experience needed to understand depressive mood disorders.

Are you or someone you love struggling with anxiety or depression? We can help. Contact us to speak to our admissions counselors.