Everyone suffers from feelings of anxiety at one time or another. People describe the feelings of anxiety in different ways, but often report feeling ‘on edge’, uneasy, fearful, unduly worried, and nervous. Feelings of anxiety become a disorder when they interfere with work, home life, and social activities. The Anxiety Disorders Association of America states that anxiety disorders plague women twice as often as they do men.
Anxiety Disorders in Women Rising
Advertisements aimed at women seem ubiquitous in U.S. culture and appear in every media platform. Even famous celebrities are often seen confessing their struggles with anxiety to reporters and on their personal Web sites. While some say the increase in anxiety and mood disorders is due to media hype and Big Pharma, many medical professionals beg to differ; general practitioners, internists, and OB/GYN physicians report that the frequency with which their female patients meet the diagnostic criteria for anxiety disorder is steadily increasing.
Reasons for the Rise
One OB/GYN doctor reports that approximately one-fifth of the patients he sees complains of debilitating anxiety. Research studies have not produced reliable empirical data regarding the reasons behind the surge. Some experts postulate that the increasingly busy lives of all Americans, and especially women, contribute to the problem. Societal pressures that urge women to aggressively compete in the workforce, while continuing to procreate and subsequently nurture a family, cause them to overextend themselves. The modern and fast-paced, materially driven culture provides little time for over-committed women to engage in personally fulfilling activities and relaxation.
Women Ignore the Symptoms
Some physicians say that women ignore, or even fail to recognize, the signs that their anxiety has reached pathological levels. A clinical psychiatry professor at Weill Cornell Medical College, Richard A. Friedman, M.D., says that these unpleasant emotional and psychological manifestations begin to feel normal to them. As a result, they sometimes suffer with ever-worsening symptoms for nine or more years. Only when the omnipresent anxiety becomes unbearable do they consult a healthcare professional.
Real, Serious, and Treatable
Many women believe that a psychiatric physician is the only medical doctor that can assist them with their sickness; they do not realize that they can voice their concerns to any medical doctor who can then prescribe medication to alleviate the symptoms of general anxiety disorder. In addition, the physician can then refer them to psychiatric specialists for further evaluation if he or she suspects more complicated issues are present. Realizing that a real and serious problem exists is the first step toward receiving effective treatment for this illness.
Pharmaceutical Treatment Options
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) represent a class of drugs commonly used to treat depression that may effectively treat several types of anxiety disorders. SSRIs are sold under several name brands, including Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, and Lexapro. Benzodiazepines, such as Valium and Xanax, can combat anxiety as well, but patients risk addiction to these drugs with long-term use. Other types of anxiety may require combination therapy where an anti-depressant is taken along with a mood stabilizing medication, such as lithium.
Getting It Out in the Open
Women whose anxiety adversely affects their lives on a regular basis should seek help, first with a primary care physician or other doctor with whom they have a relationship. Many women think of their OB/GYN as their primary care provider. In this case, they should call the OB/GYN clinic and make an appointment to talk about their anxiety issues.