Anxiety Symptoms in Women More Common Than Men

Anxiety Symptoms in Women More Common Than Men

Constant worry, nervousness, fear… Some anxiety symptoms in women differ from those that men experience. Moreover, women are twice as likely to suffer from anxiety than men. But, why?

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders affect 40 million adults in the United States ages 18 and older every year. And, the most common anxiety disorders are more prevalent in women than men – generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorders, phobias, post-traumatic stress disorder, and major depressive disorder. In fact, according to research one in three women will meet the criteria for an anxiety disorder during her lifetime, compared to only 22% of men. What’s more, women are more likely to be diagnosed with multiple anxiety disorders at one time and have a greater burden of illness (more days missed from work, more doctor visits, etc.). This means that anxiety symptoms in women are not only more prevalent but are also more disabling than they are in men.

Is it normal to feel anxious?

Everyone experiences apprehension from time to time. It’s a part of life. Painful or stressful events happen, and it’s natural to have negative emotions during these times. But, feeling anxious once in a while versus having chronic anxiety or worry is not the same thing. If your anxious thoughts “don’t go away” or they are coupled with other physical symptoms (see below), then your anxiety is not normal.

Why do women experience more anxiety than men?

There are obvious hormonal differences between men and women. And, it is well known that fluctuations in estrogen and progesterone can cause anxiety (as in the case of pregnancy or menopause).

Also, women are more prone to stress sensitivity and have different coping mechanisms than men. In general, women tend to internalize feelings of anxiety. Women who are faced with difficult situations are more likely to dwell on them and worry about them while men tend to be “fixers” and cope by problem-solving. Of course, this isn’t always the case – each person is unique and copes with life stressors in different ways. This is just to say that research shows women tend to ruminate about events.

What are the symptoms of anxiety?

There are a few commonalities between the anxiety symptoms in women and men:

  • Feelings of nervousness or worry
  • Fatigue
  • Altered sleep patterns (typically waking up during the night)
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Headaches
  • Muscle tension
  • High blood pressure

During periods of extreme anxiety or during a panic attack, symptoms may include:

  • Sweating
  • Trembling
  • Dizziness
  • Palpitations or rapid heartbeat
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fainting
  • Feeling powerless
  • A detached feeling (sometimes described as an “out of body” experience)
  • Feeling like something bad is about to happen

What are the anxiety symptoms in men?

In addition to the anxiety symptoms noted above, men may experience decreased libido, dry mouth, or frequent urination.

What are the anxiety symptoms in women?

Women with anxiety tend to be more fearful than men. And, feeling afraid is more prominent in women with a past history of physical or mental abuse. In addition, women with anxiety may experience:

  • Night sweats or hot flashes
  • Food cravings/overeating or anorexia
  • Weight gain or weight loss
  • Depression, hopelessness, or guilt
  • Chronic fatigue symptoms (no energy, unexplained muscle or joint pain, etc.)
  • Social withdrawal

How to treat anxiety?

To treat anxiety, you must first figure out the underlying cause – past trauma or abuse, hormonal fluctuations, poor coping mechanisms, etc.

First, talk to your doctor about hormone testing to determine if your anxiety is physiological. If you have an estrogen or progesterone imbalance, your doctor can work with you to find the right balance of natural bioidentical hormones.

For those with decreased serotonin levels (often have anxiety mixed with depression), a natural supplement called 5-HTP may help. 5-HTP is derived from the seed pods of a West African plant called Griffonia simplicifolia. Start off with the lowest dose—50 mg—and take on an empty stomach between 3 and 4 p.m. and again at bedtime. After an initial three days of 5-HTP at 50 mg twice daily, increase the dosage to 100 mg at each of the two times and stay at that level. If this doesn’t do the job within four to six weeks, double the bedtime dose to 200 mg. Also, make sure to take a good B-complex vitamin during the day as B vitamins (especially B12, B6, and B9) are cofactors for 5-HTP metabolism. You can get a good 5-HTP supplement here and a B-complex supplement here.

Caution: Do not take 5-HTP is you are taking an anti-depressant SSRI drug. 5-HTP may not be appropriate for everyone and may not be compatible with certain types of depression medications. You should consult with a healthcare professional to know which dose is best for your needs.

If you just tend to be a worry-wort or feel like you have poor coping mechanisms, a great book to pick up is Anxious for Nothing: God’s Cure for the Cares of Your Soul by John Macarthur. (I personally read this book and found it very helpful for coping with daily stressors.)

Last, if you have experienced a traumatic event or abuse in your past, please consider finding a counselor to talk to. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with getting mental health treatment to find resolution and recovery.

To your health!


[1] J Psychiatr Res. 2011 Aug; 45(8): 1027–1035.

[2] Brain and Behavior. 2016 July; 6(7): e00497.


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