I have mentioned my own personal mental health issues in the past. In fact, I’ve gone into some detail about my personal battle with major depression. I’ve touched briefly on anxiety in children in the past as well, but never branched into anxiety in adults. I think that this is an important issue to talk about, especially when it comes to women. Too often we neglect our personal health and that includes our mental health and well being. But just what is anxiety and does it present differently in women?
Anxiety in Women
Women in today’s society are often juggling many roles in their life. They are mother, partner, lover, chef, teacher, sister… The list goes on. The pressure of keeping all of these roles under control, and committing enough time to each area of their lives, causes a lot of stress and worry in their life. If the stress and worry continues for a long time without a break, women can, and do, start to experience anxiety on a regular basis. This puts them at risk of developing one of the Anxiety Disorders.
During an episode of anxiety your body secretes a hormone called adrenaline. This prepares you to either stand and fight, or run away. Fairly primitive isn’t it? It is one of the areas of our body that hasn’t evolved very much at all. Women tend to have a more volatile hormone mix in their bodies at any given time than what men do. Women are not only dealing with the adrenaline, but a whole cocktail of stuff depending on what stage of their life or menstrual cycle they are in. Other things that can impact on the secretion and management of adrenaline are things such as caffeine, alcohol, and other drugs.
The brain secretes a hormone called serotonin. Serotonin another important hormone that is responsible for the feeling of being calm and relaxed. Sometimes the body does not produce enough serotonin to keep everything in balance. When this happens, people are more prone to feeling anxious.
The symptoms of anxiety in women and men are very similar and can be broken down into two main areas.
• Tightness in chest and perhaps chest pain
• Indigestion and stomach pain
• Tingling in hands and feet
• Feeling cold in hands and feet
• Uncontrollable tremors
• Elevated blood pressure
• Muscle cramps
• Cold sweat
• Changes in appetite
• Changed sleeping patterns
• General tiredness.
• She may withdraw from friends and family
• She might become aggressive and moody
• There may be a fear of her own death
• She may feel a sense that something bad is going to happen
• Worry and tension may cause her to lose her ability to concentrate
• She may feel cut of and alienated from the rest of society
It is common for most women to be operating in a state of low-grade anxiety most of the time. Being aware of where their anxiety levels are at any given time, and being prepared to take action to get their anxiety under control, is an important part of any women’s health management strategy. It is an unfortunate fact that women can become so busy with their lives that they become out of touch with their own feelings and sense of well being. Their heightened state of anxiety becomes “normal” as they push on with their lives.
If this is what you are doing, at some stage something will break for you. Make sure you look at your situation before you get to that point. There are many different methods that you can use to regain control of your life.
Types of Anxiety
Anxiety is a common occurrence when a person faces potentially problematic or dangerous situations. It is also felt when a person perceives an external threat. However, chronic and irrational anxiety can lead to a form of anxiety disorder. There are different types of anxiety disorder depending on their causes or triggers.
Generalized anxiety disorder
A person who has this type of anxiety disorder usually experience prolonged anxiety that is often without basis. More accurately, people with generalized anxiety disorders cannot articulate the reason behind their anxiety. This type of anxiety usually last for six months and often affect women. Due to the persistence of the anxiety, people affected with generalized anxiety disorder constantly fret and worry. This results to heart palpitations, insomnia, headaches, and dizzy spells.
Unlike someone with generalized anxiety disorder, a person who has a specific phobia experiences extreme and often irrational fear of a certain situation or object. When exposed to the object or situation they fear, people with specific phobias exhibit signs of intense fear like shaking, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, and nausea. Common specific phobias include fear of heights, enclosed spaces, blood, and animals. The fear a person with phobia feels can be so extreme that he or she may disregard safety just to escape the situation.
Also known as Agoraphobia, panic disorders are characterized by recurring panic attacks which are often unexpected. Symptoms are usually shaking, chest pains, dizziness, fear of losing control, and reluctance of being alone. People with panic disorder are aware that their panic is usually unfounded and illogical. This is why they avoid public situations and being alone. A panic attack can be so severe that people may lose control and hurt themselves.
Alternatively called social anxiety, a person with social phobia may exhibit similar symptoms like those of panic disorder especially in social situations. Shaking, dizziness, shortness of breath, and heart palpitations may ensue when a person with social phobia finds his or herself at the center of attention or in the company of many people, regardless whether they are strangers or not.
People with obsessive-compulsive disorder experience anxiety caused by a persistent obsession or idea. They tend to avoid experiencing anxiety by resorting to repetitive actions or behaviors that prevent anxiety. For example, a person who is obsessed about cleanliness may experience anxiety at the mere sight of a vase placed slightly off-center. To prevent anxiety, he or she will clean and organize everything compulsively or without reason.
Post-traumatic stress disorder may occur after a person experienced a severely traumatic event. He or she may relive the experience in his or her mind which causes stress and anxiety. If a person with PTSD comes into contact with stimuli (any object, person, or situation) that he or she associates with the traumatic event, he or she may literally re-experience the event by crying uncontrollably, panicking, or losing control. Subtler symptoms include insomnia and avoidant behavior. PTSD may manifest itself immediately after the traumatic event or even years after.
Determining the type of anxiety disorder a person has is crucial to seeking treatment and recovery. Techniques and methods that are used to help a person cope with a certain anxiety usually target not only the management of symptoms but coping mechanisms when exposed to triggers. Only after thorough diagnosis can treatment and recovery for anxiety disorders really commence.