Dr. Colleen Cira is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist who specializes in Women and Trauma, so she has worked with hundreds of people struggling with a family of origin issues.
Here are some few things that she can say on the topic:
There are basic anxiety symptoms that form the core of anxiety that does not change as a whole much based on gender.
These include: Worry that feels excessive and out of the person’s control, irritability, racing thoughts, and fatigue along with more physical symptoms including some combination of muscle tension, headaches, GI upset, etc.
However, I think there are a few ways that anxiety looks different in women, than it does in men:
- Almost all anxiety involved a component of ruminative worry—going over the same thoughts and over and over again to no avail. But with women, anxious thoughts can become very self-critical.
- A man may worry about losing his job, but where he is more likely to attribute that to the company being in a bad place, a lousy boss, poor training, etc, a woman is likely to blame herself.
- When someone assumes that something bad is happening (or might happen it in the future) and they externalize these problems (something in the environment, situation, etc), they are more likely to try again in a different situation
- But for someone who internalizes any current or possible future problems, this person is more likely to struggle in the future because they blame themselves.
- And while this is most certainly a broad generalization, men tend to be externalizers and women tend to be internalizers. So anxiety is the first part of a potentially really unfortunate cycle for women.
- Women are more likely to talk about their anxiety which is good because they are more likely to get the help and the support they need, but they also might be seen as more anxious than their anxious male counterparts who are likely to be far less vocal about their symptoms.
- Women’s anxiety is also more likely to focus on the relationship as women tend to be more relationally-oriented than men. So there may be lots of thoughts about friends, family, and romantic partners being upset with them. All of this worry about relationships may actually wind up causing difficulties in relationships because the person may do several problematic things in their relationships due to their worry (pull away and put distance; request frequent reassurance, but then feel ashamed and pull away; needing a significant amount of reassurance on a very regular basis).
It is absolutely possible for women to better manage their anxiety, but it will take a lot of deliberate effort:
- Making sleep a priority, eating healthy, nutritious foods on a regular basis, being physically active, maintaining a support system, doing things one enjoys and making time to rest and relax are all important steps one can take to reduce one’s anxiety.
- And if those things don’t work and/or one’s symptoms are significantly negatively affecting one’s ability to function, there is no shame in seeking professional help through a therapist.
Available for Interviews: Dr. Colleen Cira
Dr. Colleen D. Cira, Psy.D. received both her Masters and Doctorate from the Illinois School of Professional Psychology and has been practicing in the field since 2001. Dr. Cira is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist and the Founder and Executive Director of Cira Center for Behavioral Health, PC a boutique group practice with locations in Chicago and Oak Park that specializes in Women’s Issues/Health and Trauma. Dr. Cira is a trauma and anxiety expert, clinical supervisor, writer, speaker, consultant, activist, wife, and Mommy to two little ones.
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