According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), women are twice as likely to suffer from anxiety as men, starting from the time they reach puberty until about the age of 50. The types of anxiety we’re faced with vary, with three common disorders being Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Panic Disorder, and Social Anxiety Disorder (Social Phobia), according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). If you think you may be suffering from any of these disorders, it’s important to seek help.
But how do you know if you’re dealing with anxiety, or just having a bad couple of days? After all, according to Dr. Stacey Rosenfeld, a licensed clinical psychologist who specializes in mood and anxiety disorders, we as women are more likely to internalize our anxiety than men. “Men may […] show more irritability [and] anger than women when struggling with [anxiety], while women may be more prone to suffer more internally,” she said. Though it’s understandable to want to keep some feelings to yourself, you may benefit greatly from seeking help if you do indeed suffer from anxiety.
Not sure if you do? According to Dr. Rosenfeld, the below are common anxiety symptoms in women:
- Excessive Worry
- Physical Symptoms (such as frequent headaches, stomachaches, and muscle tension)
- Obsessive-Compulsive Rituals
- Phobias (such as intense fears of heights or public speaking)
- Nervousness in Social Situations
- Panic Attacks
Of course, we’ve all had a few bad days — or weeks, even — here and there, perhaps triggered by a certain stressful event. So how do you know if your anxiety goes beyond a standard, mild case? “It’s really a matter of duration and degree,” said Dr. Rosenfeld. “If the symptoms persist beyond a few days; if functioning ([at] work/school, [with] family, etc.) is impacted by the distress; if thoughts of suicide arise… these are all situations in which women should seek help.”
Still wary of consulting a professional? Dr. Rosenfeld suggests asking yourself these questions:
- “Am I worrying a lot?”
- “Do I constantly find myself thinking about the future? Or past?”
- “Do I ruminate over things I said or did or that happened to me?”
- “Do I engage in obsessive thinking or compulsive behavior?” (Think: counting, washing, or other repetitive rituals)
- “Do I get excessively nervous in anticipation of social situations?”
If the answer to most or all of those questions is yes, you may greatly benefit from seeking help. “Find a qualified therapist who can help with symptom reduction and coping strategies,” Dr. Rosenfeld says. And in the meantime, there are a few things you can do in your everyday life. According to Dr. Rosenfeld, developing a regular sleep schedule, eating a balanced diet, and exercising regularly can all help with anxiety.
And perhaps most importantly, don’t be too hard on yourself or fall into the trap of thinking your anxiety is just a state of mind that you can fix on your own. “The feelings of sadness or anxiety might be fleeting for some, but the diagnoses are real, clinical experiences that require professional attention,” says Dr. Rosenfeld.