Do women really have more anxiety than men? That’s going to depend on who you ask.
There’s been plenty of discussion on the topic recently after New York magazine published an article entitled, “Why Being a Woman Puts You at Greater Risk of Having Anxiety.”
There is no greater risk factor for anxiety disorders than being born female.Andrea Petersen
To summarize, this quote should do the trick: “There is no greater risk factor for anxiety disorders than being born female.” It came from author Andrea Petersen, who was promoting her new book, On Edge: A Journey Through Anxiety.
Women responded to the publication on social media, with plenty of suggestions as to why their gender might make a difference when it came to their worries.
Because for centuries, women have endured authoritarian, male-first cultures that objectify, demean and dominate all that is feminine. Bro.
— Circe (@mktimme) August 2, 2017
Because women are raised to be afraid. Afraid for their safety, afraid to voice opinion, afraid to be smart, afraid of not being “enough”
— Sherri Gamblin (@sherrigamblin) August 3, 2017
And while many of Petersen’s examples are based on valid studies, there’s one aspect that doesn’t seem to be explored — that perhaps the very definition of anxiety is stacked against women in the first place.
It’s an idea that has been touched upon with potential changes looming for U.S. healthcare, where “pre-existing” conditions can be anything from menstrual conditions to varicose veins, showing that interpretations can vary from condition to condition.
Anxiety is ‘an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure.’
According to the American Psychological Association, anxiety is “an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure.”
But given that women have historically experienced “more” mental health issues, defining these disorders as “abnormal” means that literally half the population is more at risk than the other half. So perhaps it’s time to think about them in a different way.
More from HuffPost Canada:
This is not to say that anxiety disorders (defined in part by the National Institute of Mental Health as when anxiety doesn’t go away and worsens over time) aren’t a valid health concern, but that goes for both men and women.
In a study in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology in 2015, it was found that men were far more likely to put negative feelings out into the world and subsequently develop addictions to drugs and alcohol, while women were more likely to internalize their feelings and be diagnosed with depression or anxiety.
It seems likely that what one group calls anxiety (for women), another might call, for example, anger (for men).
With mental health of primary importance to everyone, it could be time to stop these gendered definitions, and just make sure everyone is getting the care they need and deserve.
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Author: Rebecca Zamon