The United States of Anxiety: Women Hit Hard by Disorder
Anxiety disorders are life-changing conditions. But too often their existence is hidden because victims choose to suffer in silence. Anxiety disorders usually manifest in specific situations, and those who develop them often go to elaborate lengths to avoid the environments that cause them difficulty. This habit, plus their reluctance to talk about their troubles, makes it possible for people with anxiety disorders to stay under the radar, preventing exposure and keeping friends and family members in the dark about what has been happening in their lives.
Using data collected from written tests and personal interviews over a four-year period (2008-2012), researchers associated with the Mental Health Surveillance Study were able to produce accurate estimates of the past-year prevalence of a series of anxiety disorders among the U.S. adult population as a whole. The conditions identified and listed in this survey included post-traumatic stress disorder, panic disorder, agoraphobia (without accompanying panic disorder), social phobia, specific phobia, obsessive-compulsive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder.
For the purposes of this study, only people who claimed to have experienced serious anxiety symptoms within the last 12 months at the time they were interviewed were considered to have produced a positive result.
Anxiety Disorders in America: The Statistics
The cumulative rate of past-year anxiety disorders among Americans from 2008 to 2012 was measured at 5.7 percent. But among women, the rate was 7.9 percent, dwarfing the 3.2 percent frequency of incidence found among American men.
Breaking it down by specific disorder, the differences in 12-month rates between the two sexes were as follows:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): 0.8 percent of women and 0.6 percent of men
- Panic disorder: 1.4 percent of women and 0.3 percent of men
- Agoraphobia (without panic disorder): 0.2 percent of women and 0.2 percent of men
- Social phobia: 0.9 percent of women and 1 percent of men
- Specific phobia: 2.7 percent of women and 0.4 percent of men
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD): 5 percent of women and 0.1 percent of men
- Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD): 2.6 percent of women and 1 percent of men
Out of seven categories of disorder, women were affected more frequently in five, and social phobia was the only condition diagnosed more often in men—and even there the margin was extremely narrow. Women were diagnosed with specific phobias (fear of spiders, heights, water, etc.) at seven times the rate of men and with panic disorder and OCD at five times the rate of men. Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is the most common single type of anxiety disorder, and women manifested symptoms consistent with this disorder 250 percent more frequently than men.
From Hope to Healing and Beyond
Treatment for anxiety disorders can be effective in the majority of cases. These illnesses are caused or worsened by a variety of factors, however, including genetics, family environments, life experiences (especially traumatic ones), individual personality and other co-existing physical or psychiatric conditions. Consequently, treatment regimens for anxiety disorder victims must be carefully customized to meet the unique requirements of each person, and they may take some time to succeed as the process of trial-and-error proceeds. Traditional psychotherapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, medication and controlled exposure to fear-inducing situations have all been used to help people cope with and/or overcome these mental health issues, and few sufferers are incapable of responding to all of these methods of rehabilitation.
Unfortunately, only about one-third of those who develop one or more of these life-altering psychological/emotional disorders ever seeks the services of a mental health professional. Doing so is difficult for many, since their conditions often leave them grappling with significant social inhibitions. But when women—and men as well—experiencing the troubling symptoms of anxiety disorders find the courage and strength to confront these formidable internal enemies, seeking out the assistance of trained healers to help them with their programs of recovery, they seldom come away dissatisfied with the life changes they are able to achieve.