According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 1 in 13 people globally suffer from anxiety. On top of that, women are twice as likely to experience an anxiety disorder as a man. This means it is absolutely essential for women to be aware of physical and mental symptoms of anxiety, so that they know what to look for and how to protect themselves.
What is Anxiety?
Before we can get into the symptoms of anxiety, it’s important to first understand what anxiety is. Anxiety is essentially your body’s natural response to stress due to fear of what’s potentially to come. So, it is that feeling you get when you go on a first date, have an exam, are going for an interview, etc. And anxiety is actually completely NORMAL and HEALTHY. Yes. I said it. People seem to think anxiety is inherently bad, but it’s not. It helps us to perform better because it gets our adrenaline going.
However, the problem arises when you start feeling anxiety chronically and for things that shouldn’t elicit an anxiety response. For example, going outside, socializing with people you’re familiar with, what can of beans you should buy, etc.
Physical Symptoms of Anxiety
There are many physical symptoms of anxiety. You don’t need to have all of them, and you might have some outside of these. But in general, these are the common physical symptoms of anxiety:
• Labored breathing
• Racing heart
• Body aches
• Tight and sore muscles
Mental Symptoms of Anxiety
What is going on in your mind. What thoughts are you having? Again, the list of things one could be thinking when anxious is extensive, so these are just some of the thoughts that might be crossing your mind. Also, having these thoughts sometimes is okay. The issue arises if you’re having these thoughts frequently or all the time:
- “What if” questions (what if I fail, what if I’m late, what if I do the wrong thing, what if I had done this instead)
- Internalizing blame (it’s my fault that I’m anxious because I’m weak, I need to do better)
- Seeing everything as black and white (I either get that A or I’ve pretty much failed)
- Always seeing the dangers and negative things about situations
- Being unable to concentrate and feeling a lot of brain fog
Women-Specific Physical and Mental Symptoms of Anxiety
While all of the previously mentioned symptoms can apply to everyone, there are a few physical and mental symptoms that are more specific for women.
The first is irregularities or dysfunctions with the menstruation cycle. This is a physical symptom of anxiety that may portray itself in women. It could be because anxiety affects hormone levels, so chronic anxiety can lead to having no period, or having one too often.
Another potential physical symptom unique to women is the tightening of the pelvic floor muscles and vaginal wall muscles. As previously discussed, sore and tight muscles are common for people with anxiety. This can actually affect the pelvic and vaginal muscles as well, potentially leading to discomfort and pain during any penetrative action.
Lastly, women are very prone to internalizing blame. As women, we are always held to a higher standard than men. We are expected to play every part perfectly. The mom, the daughter, the wife, the sister, the worker, and on top of that we often feel the need to have to look pretty and fit all the time.
This not only leads to more women being anxious, but it leads to a lot of women blaming themselves for their anxiety because they think they need to be perfect all the time.
How Women Can Protect Themselves
Luckily, there are a lot of things women can do to prevent ourselves from getting anxiety, or to improve its symptoms.
The first is self-care. Self-care has so many incredible benefits. It helps us to recharge so that our cup doesn’t overflow. If we’re not taking care of ourselves that cup will eventually spill over and lead to anxiety.
Self-care doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive. It can be:
- Going for a walk
- Having a yummy treat
- Reading a book
- Taking those vitamins you always skip cause it’s too much work
The next way women can protect themselves from physical and mental symptoms of anxiety is by exercising. By exercising, you are increasing endorphins, getting out pent up emotions, improving the condition of your physical body, creating relationships (if you go to a class), and helping to relieve your mind. Some people see great results in terms of their anxiety just by exercising daily!
Another tip is practicing mindfulness. Being more mindful can teach you to slow yourself and your energy down, so that you can be a calmer person. It can also help you to feel more grounded and connected to yourself, which in turn will help prevent you from getting chronic anxiety.
Lastly, you need to let yourself be helped. As women, we take so much on ourselves because we don’t want to burden others. However, carrying so much has its toll. Talk to your loved ones if you’re feeling anxious, and then LET THEM HELP YOU. It is not a sign of weakness. It is a sign of strength, and it’s essential if you want to keep anxiety at bay.