Anxiety Disorders – Are Women At Greater Risk?

Have you ever experienced a racing heart or an impending sense of doom even when things seem normal to other people? Does this happen more often than you care to admit? You could be one of more than 250 million globally who have an anxiety disorder. According to the American Psychological Association, anxiety is an emotional state in which a person experiences worrying thoughts, tension, and physical symptoms. Are symptoms of anxiety more common in women, and if yes, why?

Causes of Anxiety in Women

Anyone can be affected by anxiety, but research shows it is much more prevalent in women than men.1 What’s more, there’s considerable evidence that suggests anxiety disorders are frequently undiagnosed or undertreated. Some of the risk factors for anxiety in women include:

  • Childhood trauma (stressful events, negative experiences, abuse)
  • Family history of anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues
  • Medical conditions related to the thyroid gland or hormones
  • Side effects of certain medications

When it comes to anxiety in women, hormones play an important role. Many studies have shown a link between female hormones and anxiety symptoms.2 Clinicians who provide care to women should be aware that hormonal changes at different stages of a woman’s life can contribute to anxiety. These hormonal changes could be related to menstruation, pregnancy and childbirth, or menopause.

If you are a woman suffering from anxiety symptoms, it’s important to get help from professionals. Self-medicating your anxiety symptoms with alcohol, prescription medications, or even illicit drugs can lead to substance use issues. If you are already struggling with a drug or alcohol problem, it’s even more important to get help as soon as possible. Many Washington drug rehabs offer dual diagnosis treatment for co-occurring mental health issues, such as anxiety, along with treatment for substance use disorders.

Symptoms of Anxiety Disorders

All women do not experience the same anxiety symptoms. An anxiety disorder can look very different in one woman compared to another woman. Nonetheless, some of the most common symptoms of anxiety in women include:

  • Increased heart rate, especially in stressful or triggering situations
  • Rapid breathing, shaking, sweating
  • Fatigue, lethargy, exhaustion, weakness
  • Difficulty focusing and concentrating
  • Nervousness, edginess, irritability
  • Sleeping issues, such as insomnia
  • Loss of appetite, weight loss, nausea, stomach pain

It is worth noting that many of the above-mentioned symptoms can also be associated with substance use disorders. If you or someone you know is exhibiting these symptoms and using alcohol or other substances to ease them, it may be time to get help at a Washington drug rehab.

Co-Occurring Anxiety and Substance Abuse

Millions of people worldwide have co-occurring mental health issues like anxiety and substance use disorders. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse in the United States, more than 7.5 million Americans have co-occurring alcohol/drug problems and mental illness. What makes things worse is that oftentimes these two conditions worsen each other. Which is why it’s important to get treated for both disorders at the same time.

It can be difficult to tell which came first, anxiety or substance abuse. What complicates the picture further is that both can have very similar symptoms. Seeking help at a Washington alcohol/drug addiction treatment center with expertise in mental health is critical to getting better. The clinical staff at such facilities can provide integrated therapies that are essential for long-term sobriety and mental wellness.

Types of Anxiety Disorders

Men and women can suffer from different types of anxiety disorders, some of which are described below:

People with generalized anxiety disorder tend to worry excessively about day-to-day issues and often jump to the worst-case scenario.

People with panic disorder feel like they’re losing control. They experience intense fear or a sense of doom even when there’s no real danger.

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People with phobias have an intense aversion or fear of objects, situations, or places that are out of proportion to the thing or circumstance.

People with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) experience anxiety and other symptoms after witnessing a violent, scary, or disturbing event.

People with obsessive-compulsive disorders have repetitive behaviors and thoughts and may perform activities over and over to try and control anxiety symptoms.

Did you know that women are much more likely than men to be diagnosed with many specific anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, phobias, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and panic disorder?1

Treatment Options for Women with Anxiety Issues

If you are experiencing symptoms of anxiety, you should know that you are not alone. Nearly 1 in 3 adults in the United States experiences these symptoms at least once in their lifetime. However, it is critical for women experiencing anxiety to get help. Because if you don’t get professional help, you may begin to self-medicate with alcohol or drugs to feel better.

While it’s not harmful to reach for an occasional glass of wine to unwind after a long, stressful day, for those with anxiety disorders, this can quickly become a habit. The same is true for misuse of prescription anti-anxiety medications, some of which have addictive potential. Before you know it, your anxiety symptoms have progressed and you’re battling a full-blown substance use disorder. What’s worse, substance abuse frequently worsens anxiety symptoms, creating a vicious cycle that’s difficult to break out of.

If you or a loved one has a mental health issue such as anxiety disorder and is also battling alcohol or drug abuse, Washington drug rehabs offer many effective programs to successfully treat both conditions. An individualized treatment plan is created for each patient and various therapies are used to treat a variety of co-occurring conditions, including substance abuse and anxiety disorders.

In general, these conditions are treated with a combination of medications and counseling. For pregnant women, the course of treatment may need to be modified, keeping in mind the safety of the baby and expectant mother.

During treatment at Washington drug rehabs, women learn healthy coping skills to relieve anxiety and avoid triggers for alcohol or drug use. Mental health issues and dependence on alcohol or drugs can seem like insurmountable problems, but with the proper treatment, you can get your symptoms under control and live a happy, productive, anxiety-free, substance-free life.

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