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Understanding the Impact of Anxiety Disorders on Women

Understanding the Impact of Anxiety Disorders on Women

Challenges with mental health disorders are more common than many people think. As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes, more than one in five youth and adults in the United States live with a mental health disorder. Moreover, due to stigma and low mental health literacy, many people are not informed on how common disorders like anxiety impact everyday life. Women in particular are disproportionately affected by mental health disorders like depression and anxiety. Thus, addressing the impact of anxiety disorders on women is important to supporting mental health and/or addiction recovery.

Although many people experience some level of anxiety throughout their lives, when left untreated the impact of anxiety disorders can be devastating. The impact of anxiety disorders leaves you feeling overwhelmed by your excessive worries and fears. These excessive worries and fears make participating in daily life, work, school, and relationships difficult. Moreover, the challenges of anxiety disorders impact countless people all over the world. As the World Health Organization (WHO) states, anxiety disorders are the most common mental health disorders across the world, with over 301 million people affected. Yet, only one in four (or 27.6% of) people receive treatment for anxiety disorders.

Many of the challenges with addressing the impact of anxiety disorders for all people stem from a range of barriers. Most often a lack of awareness and social stigma play a major role in poor disorder recognition and treatment seeking in every mental health disorder. The barriers to recognizing the impact of anxiety disorders on women and supporting treatment are impaired by gender-based barriers. Addressing the impact of anxiety disorders on women is impaired by a variety of disparities in gender bias and structural discrimination. As the American Psychiatric Association (APA) notes, some of the barriers women face in receiving mental health services include:

  • Lack of awareness
    • Mental health issues
    • Available services
    • Treatment options
  • Economic barriers
    • Lack of insurance
    • Reliance on public insurance
      • Impacted by changes in coverage 
    • Cost
      • Including challenges with premiums and co-payments
    • Financial instability
    • Challenges with economic abuse from a romantic partner or family member
      • Access to your economic resources is controlled by others without your consent 
  • Lack of time, resources, and support system
    • Unable to get time off work
    • Limited or no access to childcare options
    • No or unreliable transportation
  • Stigma 
    • Mental health stigma
    • Stigma about women’s health needs
      • Denial of care
      • Unequal care
  • Lack of appropriate and effective intervention strategies
    • Poor integration of mental health and primary care services
    • Few services that integrate dual diagnosis treatment to address co-occurring addiction and mental health disorders

Recognizing the barriers to treatment for women highlights the vital need to address the impact of anxiety disorders to support lifelong healing. At New Creations Recovery, we recognize the need for a “mental institution near me” to address the impact of anxiety disorders on women. Mental health disorders can lead to impairments in functioning in every part of your life. Coupled with co-occurring addiction in dual diagnosis can further complicate the impact of anxiety disorders on recovery. 

Moreover, we recognize that women in particular have an increased risk for co-occurring mental health disorders with addiction and a higher occurrence of depression and anxiety disorders. Thus, at our Christian rehab center, we are committed to providing a personalized and balanced approach to treat and heal you in mind, body, and soul. With a holistic and spiritual approach to personalized care, we can address the impact of anxiety disorders on women for lifelong recovery.

You likely have questions about the impact of anxiety disorders on your daily life. For instance, why do women experience more challenges with anxiety disorders compared to men?

The Prevalence of Anxiety Disorders for Women

According to the APA, women are twice as likely to experience challenges with a variety of anxiety disorders:

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
    • 10% of women
    • 4% of men
  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
    • 36% of women
    • 25% of men
  • Panic disorder (PD)
    • 6% of women
    • 3% of men

The increased prevalence of PTSD in women shares a relationship with the frequency of trauma exposure. Due to a variety of factors related to gender bias and gender discrimination, women and girls are more likely to be exposed to traumas like physical, sexual, and emotional abuse and neglect. Moreover, looking at the percentage differences between women and men with anxiety disorders further showcases the need to understand the impact of anxiety disorders on women. There are a variety of differences in the way women and men experience mental health disorders. 

As noted by the APA in “Study Finds Sex Differences in Mental Illness,” women are more likely to be diagnosed with mood and anxiety disorders. However, men are more likely to have substance use disorder (SUD) and antisocial personality disorder. The differences women and men experience in types of mental health disorders are deeply interconnected to gender socialization. Women are more likely to internalize their emotions, which contributes to social withdrawal, loneliness, and depression. 

Meanwhile, men are more likely to externalize their emotions, which contributes to aggression, impulsivity, and coercive and non-compliant behaviors. Therefore, looking at how women and men respond to stress can provide insight into the relationship between gender, stress, and mental health challenges. With deeper insight into the role of gender in mental health, you can address the specific impact of anxiety disorders in your life.

How Women Respond to Distress

As noted in Emotion Review, there are some major gender differences in the expression of emotion. Women show greater expression of emotion overall and for positive emotions while internalizing negative emotions. Meanwhile, men tend to express more aggression and anger while focusing on or experiencing less sadness and anxiety. Looking at the way boys and girls use facial, vocal, and postural expressions to communicate or mask their internal emotions puts a lens on the conscious and subconscious impact of anxiety disorders and gender expectations. In Western cultures in particular, girls and boys are socialized and taught to interact with others and situations in different ways:

  • Girls are taught to be caregivers and accommodating to others
    • They are encouraged to express more positive emotions 
      • Happiness
      • Joy
      • Excitement
      • Kindness
    • Females are also encouraged to internalize negative emotions
      • Sadness
      • Fear
      • Anxiety 
      • Shame
      • Guilt
    • Expected to express empathy and sympathy
    • Girls are more likely to up-regulate happy expressions to please or make others more comfortable
  • Boys are taught to be strong individualistic, independent, assertive, and aggressive to overcome obstacles 
    • They are encouraged not to show emotions that are considered tender
      • Sadness
      • Anxiety
    • Males are encouraged to express externalizing emotions
      • Anger
      • Contempt
      • Disgust
    • Expected to focus on being protectors
    • Boys are more likely to down-regulate happy expressions to appear calm and cool to others

The differences in gender socialization and emotional expressions highlight the different strategies women and men engage with to cope with stressors. Therefore, you can increase your understanding of the impact of anxiety disorders as they relate to coping strategies. In adulthood, regardless of gender, everyone experiences stressors like financial and job insecurity, health issues, and relationship conflicts. However, women are also more often exposed to unique stressors like balancing family obligations and work responsibilities. 

The stress that comes with trying to fulfill roles as a mother, daughter, granddaughter, sibling, wife, and employee can be incredibly overwhelming. Thus, the intersecting relationship between gender socialization and unhealthy coping patterns can impede mental well-being. Understanding coping patterns in women can increase your understanding of the impact of anxiety disorders on daily functioning. As the Iranian Journal of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences notes, girls and women are more prone to anxiety due to unhealthy thought control strategies and metacognitive beliefs. 

Women often experience uncontrollable worry and rumination about potential, current, and past stressors. Therefore, women are more likely to engage in worry and punishment coping strategies where they focus on negative thoughts and punish themselves for having negative thoughts. Moreover, women are more likely to experience neuroticism which includes negative emotions, poor self-regulation, and difficulty managing stress. Various factors like neuroticism and more frequent exposure to stressful life events highlight the significance of the impact of anxiety disorders in addressing the well-being of women.

Recognizing the factors that contribute to unhealthy coping strategies increases your understanding of the impact of anxiety disorders. In addition, increased awareness of maladaptive coping strategies speaks to the importance of understanding the impact of anxiety disorders on women through risk factors. What risk factors contribute to the impact of anxiety disorders?

Risk Factors for the Impact of Anxiety Disorders in Women

According to Focus: The Journal of Lifelong Learning in Psychiatry, the greater prevalence and impact of anxiety disorders for women stem from distinct epochs across the female lifespan. Across the female lifespan, girls and women are at a greater risk for the impact of anxiety disorders in nearly every category. Due to factors like hormonal changes, biological factors, coping, and stress, women are more prone to experiencing the impact of anxiety disorders. Listed below are some of the risk factors that make the impact of anxiety disorders more prominent in the lives of girls and women:

  • Puberty
    • A vulnerable developmental window of hormonal change and fluctuations
    • Increased psychosocial stress 
      • Changes in social situations with peers, school life, and home life 
  • The menstrual cycle
    • Increased anxiety sensitivity during menstruation
    • Up to 80% of reproductive-aged women experience a physical, mood, or anxiety symptom during the second phase 
    • Around 20% of women experience premenstrual symptoms (PMS)
      • Which can include mood swings, irritability, and anxiety
    • 5-8% of women experience premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD)
      • A more severe form of PMS that includes extreme and disruptive mood swings
  • Pregnancy and postpartum
    • Stress and or depression during pregnancy increases the risk of co-occurring anxiety
  • Transitioning into menopause
    • Hormones fluctuate erratically
    • Irregular periods
    • Increased stress from a major life transition and physical symptoms
      • Hot flashes
      • Insomnia
  • Social factors
    • Stressors
      • Twice as likely to experience sexual abuse in childhood
      • Increased exposure to abuse, neglect, and family dysfunction in childhood
      • In adulthood, women are 10 times more likely to experience sexual assault 
      • Increased sensitivity to interpersonal stress
      • Experience more physiological reactivity to stressors
        • Elevated heart rate
        • Rapid breathing
        • Increased blood pressure
      • Full-time caregiving for children and or parents
  • Coping and cognitive styles
    • Anxious coping
    • More likely to experience emotional distress in response to stressors 
    • Negative cognitive styles 
    • Ruminative coping style
    • Increased sensitivity to anxiety

Further, understanding the impact of anxiety disorders with gender-specific risk factors highlights the significance of co-occurrence. Looking at other co-occurring disorders and conditions like trauma can support your understanding of the impact of anxiety disorders on your daily life.

The Impact of Anxiety Disorders and Co-Occurring Disorders on Daily Life

Dealing with co-occurring disorders can make the impact of anxiety disorders even more pronounced. As noted by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), not only are anxiety disorders the most common mental health disorders in the U.S., but they share a high co-occurrence with other disorders. In particular, anxiety disorders and depression share a close relationship in which they most frequently occur together. Some other disorders that often co-occur with anxiety disorders include:

  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Bipolar disorder (BP)
  • Eating disorders
  • Autism spectrum disorder (ASD)
  • Chronic pain/illness
  • Sleep disorders
  • SUD

Thus, the high rate of co-occurrence with other disorders further highlights the challenges that can come from the impact of anxiety disorders. The impact of anxiety disorders on their own can be disruptive to your daily life, work, school, relationships, and life goals. Listed below are some of the psychological and physical symptoms that showcase the impact of anxiety disorders include:

  • Difficulty concentrating 
  • Inability to make decisions
  • Increased feelings of irritability, tension, and restlessness
  • Persistent and excessive worry about daily activities and or events
  • Fear and worry about humiliation, embarrassment, or rejection in social situations
  • Avoiding situations, places, people, and things that trigger anxiety 
  • Feelings of impending danger or doom
  • Sleep issues
  • Stomach issues
  • Nausea
  • Sweating
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Dry mouth
  • Heart palpitations

Looking at the symptoms of anxiety disorders can help you recognize the impact of anxiety disorders on your ability to do things or foster meaningful relationships. As stated in Current Psychiatry Reports, the impact of anxiety disorders with functional impairments significantly diminishes your quality of life. The impact of anxiety disorders on life satisfaction can be seen in subjective distress, behavioral responses, functional impairment, and clinical factors. These four quality-of-life factors that showcase the impact of anxiety disorders look at the impact of symptoms, coping behaviors, life functioning, and adjacent influences. Listed below are the quality of life factors that are harmed by the impact of anxiety disorders when left untreated:

  • Subjective distress
    • Severity of symptoms
      • Higher levels of co-occurring disorders
    • Anxiety sensitivity
      • Fear of somatic anxiety symptoms
        • The belief that symptoms will have negative consequences
          • Increased disability
          • Higher correlation of anxiety and depression
    • Distress tolerance
      • Low tolerance for distress leads to extreme discomfort with emotional distress
        • More likely to seek opportunities to escape
    • Positive emotions and negative emotions
      • Emotion processing deficits
        • Increased negative emotions and decreased positive emotions
  • Behavioral responses
    • Reliance on maladaptive coping behaviors to cope with the discomfort of anxiety and panic symptoms
      • Provides relief in the moment, but ultimately maintains or worsens anxiety
        • Avoidance and safety behaviors
          • Escape coping
          • Subtle avoidance
            • Sitting near an exit
            • Avoiding crowds
            • Calling someone for help
              • Increased engagement in safety behaviors and strong positive beliefs about safety behaviors
        • Substance use behaviors
          • Challenges with co-occurring symptoms and impairments
        • Emotional regulation
          • Difficulties effectively regulating emotions
            • Lower emotion regulation flexibility increases poor quality of life and greater emotional distress
  • Functional impairment
    • Social functioning
      • Smaller social network
      • Fewer social activities
      • Less social support
    • Physical health
      • Particularly individuals with PD overuse medical and psychological health services
      • Lower physical activity
    • Occupational functioning
      • Adults with GAD experience impairment in work productivity and activity
  • Clinical factors
    • Biopsychosocial factors
      • Later onset of GAD correlates with poor physical health
    • Co-occurring
      • Increased severity of symptoms
      • Chronic symptoms
      • More functional impairment

Without treatment, the impact of anxiety disorders can be detrimental to your ability to lead a meaningful and fulfilling life in long-term recovery. However, with increased awareness and understanding of anxiety disorders and gender, you can start addressing your unhealthy coping strategies.

Fostering Whole-Person Healing at New Creation Recovery

At New Creation Recovery, we believe in providing a balanced approach to mental health recovery to support lifelong healing. With a balanced, personalized approach to care, you can work with our team of experts to choose the strategy that makes sense for you. Through holistic care at treatment centers near me like New Creation, you can find the roots of your distress to learn how to break down and manage your anxiety in healthier ways. Moreover, with our Christian rehab focus, commitment to gender-specific care, and co-occurring disorders in dual diagnosis, you can find the support you need to recover and pursue your goals and dreams in life.

Women are twice as likely to experience the impact of anxiety disorders. The prevalence of anxiety disorders in women stems from a variety of biological, cultural, and environmental factors that often intersect and overlap with each other. Some of the unique risk factors women experience include reproductive hormonal changes like menstruation, the impact of gender socialization on internalizing emotions and unhealthy coping strategies, and increased exposure to stressful and traumatic events. Yet, with increased awareness and understanding, you can break down the roots of your distress to reduce unhealthy thinking and behavior patterns. At New Creation Recovery, we are committed to providing personalized treatment to address your specific recovery needs. Call us at (877) 868-5730 to learn more today.