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Anxiety in Women Comes in Many Forms, But Can Be Managed

aa woman_concernedIt was 2:30 in the morning when Shirley’s eyes popped open. Thoughts tumbled through her mind. “I know I am going to be in trouble with my boss because I didn’t finish the proposal on time. He is going to yell and I won’t get that raise I need. My bill for the car repair is going to cost more than I have. Rosa wants to go on a date on Friday and I know that her boyfriend drives too fast and something will happen to Rosa.” Her heart beat faster. She sat up in bed and tried to stop the thoughts from swimming around her brain, but it didn’t happen. She rubbed her achy forehead and wiped the sweat from her armpits. She tried to remain calm, but nothing was helping. Shirley was living in a constant state of fear and stress on a daily basis. Anxiety was causing her sleepless nights. Women are two times more likely than men to have an anxiety disorder. Let’s look at how anxiety affects women and how it is being treated today with positive results.

The Anxiety and Depression Association of American defines generalized anxiety disorder, or GAD, as one type of anxiety that affects women causing, persistent, excessive, and unrealistic worry about everyday things. The worry that a woman feels can affect her daily routine, her family and her job performance. A woman may worry about her relationship with her spouse/significant other, her health or her family members. Constant anxiety over monthly bills and income are common. Fear of losing a loved one or even being in a room with a group of strangers can bring on apprehensive feelings.

What Are The Symptoms of Anxiety?

You are not alone if you suffer from anxiety. Over 40 million women and men suffer from this mental illness making it the most common mental illness in the United States. Symptoms affect a woman both emotionally and physically.

Emotional Symptoms of Anxiety

Emotional symptoms of anxiety include:

  • Tension
  • Irritability
  • Loss of concentration
  • A feeling of dread

Physical Symptoms of Anxiety

Anxiety is not just a feeling or the emotion. Physical symptoms may be intense and can include:

  • Rapid heart beat
  • Excessive sweatingcaucasian woman thinking_praying
  • Upset stomach
  • Diarrhea
  • Shaking or tremors
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia

What are the Main Types of Anxiety Disorders?

The American Psychiatric Association breaks anxiety disorders into several types.

  1. Women with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) show signs of tension and worry about daily happenings in their lives. Women can have complications completing their duties at work and doing home tasks due to these continuing symptoms.
  2. Women with a phobia have a deep fear of a situation, object or activity. We can break phobias into 3 main categories:
    1. Specific phobia- when a woman is fearful of a specific thing, for example, hydrophobia is the fear of water.
    2. Social phobia- when a woman is excessively fearful of being in a social situation such as public speaking or afraid to go to a movie where she will have to talk to the ticket taker. She avoids social situations where she feels she will be judged.
    3. Agoraphobia- when a woman is fearful of being in a situation where she might feel embarrassed or she may feel that there is no help for her when she goes into a panic attack. A woman with a severe case of agoraphobia may not leave her home
  3. When a woman has overwhelming anxiety, she may have panic disorder which can cause panic attacks. These attacks can come unexpectedly. The woman may feel terror so deeply that she believes she is having a heart attack especially when she is experiencing a fast hammering heart and sweating. Dizziness, trembling and even chills may be observed in a woman having a panic attack.

What Treatments Options for Anxiety Disorders?

Of course it is advised that if you have any anxiety symptoms that you first discuss them with your health care provider. Your provider will make a detailed assessment and find the best treatment for your type of disorder.

Psychotherapy is one choice that women can use to deal with the symptoms of anxiety disorders. Cognitive behavior therapy teaches a woman the skills and steps to follow to prevent anxiety. The goal is to work toward being able to function in her daily routines.

Medications for anxiety include antidepressants which would be prescribed by a health care provider. Sedatives can be used but usually for a short time span because they are habit forming.

Changes to a woman’s diet, exercise routine, and sleep habits can also help relieve anxiety symptoms, so these may be recommended by your physician.

The best part of seeking help from your health care provider is that many anxiety disorders can be treated with positive outcomes. The psychiatrist or therapist may use a combination of therapy and medications to help a woman with her disorder.

Seek and Find the Help You Need

Women experiencing symptoms of anxiety can  find help by contacting a health provider.  Mental health impacts physical health, and overall wellness in so many ways.  You do not need to handle this alone!  Help is available.  If you want more information on finding support or education materials, contact http://www.namiwisconsin.org/, the National Alliance on Mental Illness Wisconsin’s chapter. I encourage you to take that first step!


Because it all begins with a healthy woman…

Sue Ann Thompson is founder and president of the Wisconsin Women’s Health Foundation (WWHF), a statewide non-profit organization whose mission is to help Wisconsin women and their families reach their healthiest potential. WWHF provides programs and conducts forums that focus on education, prevention, and early detection; connects individuals to health resources; produces and distributes the most up-to-date health education and resource materials; and, awards grants and scholarships to women health researchers and related community non-profits. To learn more, visit wwhf.org or call 1-800-448-5148.

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