Anxiety has become a common mental health concern, increasing during the global pandemic, especially for many working and stay-at-home moms and women alike. Perhaps you experienced Zoom calls with Mommy groups that may have left you or someone you know with sweaty palms, truncated breathing, and feelings of uneasiness because the collective anxiety was too thick to handle. Additionally, conversations with family and friends likely went from routine check-ins to a deep concern for almost everything.
The truth is, anxiety creeps in when you least expect it and can turn your world upside down. Even just talking about anxiety might spark anxious feelings now. And why is it that fear seems to lead the way? We have good news — it doesn’t have to.
As you read through this article, take your time as you begin to understand anxiety, including its different types, signs and symptoms, causes and risk factors, diagnosis and treatment options. We’ll also explain how it impacts different ages and gender.
What is anxiety?
Anxiety is a natural response to stress or perceived danger. Many different things can trigger anxiety of all forms; working from home, making bill payments, ensuring your children’s safety during the pandemic, engaging in social situations, etc.
In healthy amounts, anxiety can help us accomplish tasks or escape dangerous situations. In these cases, the feeling of anxiety is short-lived and manageable. An anxiety disorder occurs when anxiety becomes debilitating, causing persistent worrying, panic attacks, or other health issues. If these anxiety symptoms continue for longer than six months, this is often a sign of an anxiety disorder. If this sounds familiar to you, you are not alone.
Types of anxiety
There are many forms of anxiety disorders, with more severe cases leading to chronic stress and depression. It is important to speak with a certified doctor or practitioner about your symptoms to learn as much as possible about the specific ways your anxiety affects you.
Disorders related to anxiety:
- Panic disorder
- Social anxiety disorder
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Separation Anxiety
- Illness anxiety disorder
Gender and age differences
Anxiety symptoms in women are reportedly higher than in men, especially those with children. A report by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) led by Dr. Hayley Hamilton (2020) suggested that sending kids back to school increased anxiety levels among women. Fears of contracting COVID-19 also contributed to anxiety among both women and men.
Children account for one in eight suffering from anxiety. Specific sensitivity is required when diagnosing and treating these cases, especially since their triggers (e.g. familial conflict or an upcoming quiz) and signs (e.g. out-of-control outbursts) are different from adults.
Learn more about women’s mental health awareness, symptoms and support.
Signs and symptoms
Anxiety signs and symptoms can be experienced physically or psychologically and often accompany a panic attack. Some signs and symptoms are similar to other emotional disorders (like depression), which is why it’s important to discuss these experiences with a trained professional so you or someone you know can take action.
Common symptoms of anxiety:
- Being irritable
- Being easily fatigued
- Having muscle tension
- Difficulty controlling feelings of worry
- Feeling restless, wound-up, or on-edge
- Having difficulty concentrating; mind going blank
- Having sleep problems, such as difficulty falling or staying asleep, restlessness, or unsatisfying sleep
Common symptoms of acute anxiety:
- Pounding heart
- Shortness of breath
- Sweating or chills
- Chest tightness
- Numbness or tingling
- Dry mouth
Causes and risk factors
Anxiety is often caused by biopsychosocial factors, as well as challenging life experiences, come factors include:
- Family history
- Chronic illness
- Illegal substances
- Childhood development
- Traumatic or stressful life events
- Other mental health disorders
Diagnosis and treatments
Managing anxiety and getting an early anxiety diagnosis can help prevent your symptoms from getting worse. Diagnosis often involves a full, lengthy, and non-invasive process of physical examinations, mental health evaluations, and surveys. Getting an anxiety diagnosis is important as it leads you to proper treatment of symptoms to manage life with anxiety. Possible treatments include psychotherapy, medication, and lifestyle changes. See below for a list of common treatments and preventative strategies.
Please note: Anxiety and depression are commonly experienced together, whereby anxiety can trigger a depressive episode.
Suggested Treatments for Anxiety:
- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
- Avoid coffee
- Quit smoking
- Nutrition and diet
- Building social supports
- Avoid alcohol consumption
- Maintaining a consistent sleep schedule
- Medication prescribed by a doctor
- Making time for fun/relaxing activities
Get support for anxiety and other mental health concerns
If you or someone you know notices signs and symptoms of anxiety, know that support is available and that you are not alone. Room For Her exists to help remove the barriers women face in accessing therapy, including not knowing how to find a therapist, long wait times, and the costs, inconvenience, and time spent travelling to and from traditional in-person therapy.
Try one year of free self-guided digital therapy today.