by Nancy Travers,LCSW

The Merriam Webster dictionary defines worry as feeling or experiencing concern or anxiety. Anxiety is defined as fearful concern or interest with an added apprehensiveness. Panic is a sudden overpowering fright or acute extreme anxiety. Thus, these three terms are highly interrelated. Excessive worry may lead to anxiety which if left uncontrolled can develop into full-blown panic.

Anxiety is currently at all time high in the United States with prices skyrocketing and bank accounts shrinking. If you’re a woman, you’re feeling the stress even more than most men. Chronic stress has been linked to a multitude of physical ailments including heart disease, Type II diabetes, certain types of cancer and many others. To make matters worse, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, more than 28 percent of American adults have an anxiety disorder. Women are sixty percent more likely to be in this group than men. This is thought to be due to a wide range of components encompassing biological, cultural and psychological influences.

Women tend to worry about a variety of things including social issues (both personal and global), money matters, physical health and job problems. Women may even worry about worrying. This happens frequently enough that psychologists have even come up with a term for it: meta-worry. As a rule, women worry much more intensely than men. Women also tend to see more risk in situations and develop more anxieties than men. As seen in the statistics from the National Institute of Mental Health, women are twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with anxiety disorders.

The explanation for the gender divide may be partly mechanical and partly chemical. First, men and women are wired differently. Secondly, reproductive hormones like progesterone and estrogen are thought to play a role in anxiety. These are present in much higher concentrations in women than men (although men do make them). Another hormone that may be involved in causing or exacerbating anxiety is over-production of hormones from the thyroid gland. Thyroid problems occur in more women than men and these can lead to increased anxiety. Social protocols could be a factor as well: women feeling anxious might be more willing to talk to someone about their feelings while men, when stressed, might handle things differently, e.g. going out for a drink with the guys.

In the book, Women Who Worry Too Much by Holly Hazlett-Stevens, PhD, the author employs the results of the most current clinical research to help individuals format a plan everyone (even men) can use to reduce worry. Worry, anxiety and panic are a continuum of reactions and emotions we feel when looking toward the future and anticipating potential bad outcomes.

In Dr. Hazlett-Stevens’ book, she covers what worry is, how it differs from anxiety and how it could become a chronic condition. She explains how to employ useful and easy mindfulness and relaxation techniques to avoid dwelling on the issues we can’t control. Her step-by-step exercises enable people to manage their worries and anxieties through awareness, perspective, and addressing and facing fears to focusing on the present instead of the future. Using these techniques, excessive worry and eventual panic can be avoided altogether, enabling everyone to lead less stressful lives. If these strategies aren’t enough to ease anxiety, additional treatment may include medication, therapy or both. A successful treatment plan must be decided on a case-by-case basis, depending on the patient, the doctor and the disorder itself.

Nancy Travers is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She specializes in all types of relationships; We all want them, We all need them; How to get em and Keep them. Nancy’s office is located at 1600 Dove Street, Suite 260, Newport Beach, CA 92660.

For more information or to make an appointment, call 949-510- 9423 or contact us.
copyright a division of Counseling Corner, Inc.
As seen in The Blade magazine June 2005.