Women approaching midlife traditionally experience a higher propensity toward anxiety disorders.
Usually, these anxiety disorders fall within generalized anxiety, PTSD, and panic attacks. Hormonal changes that happen during motherhood, pre-menopause, and menopause are all reasons for these anxiety disorders.
Women in their thirties to fifties are normally facing the peak of life’s highest demands as they try to meet expectations imposed on women from society. Women embrace the idea that they can “have everything,” including chasing career growth, raising children, managing the home, and maintaining active social lives.
Women measure their lives to other mothers and businesswomen around them and strive to keep up appearances. During these years, suppressed memories of former sexual assault or abuse can often crop up and lead to latent anxiety or PTSD symptoms.
What follows is a breakdown of the symptoms of Generalized Anxiety, Panic Disorder, and PTSD. You may not realize that some of the symptoms that are outlined below accompany these diagnoses.
Symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Generalized Anxiety Disorder manifests itself as excessive anxiety and intense worry about a whole host of things. This worry comes quickly and can be a real challenge to control.
This anxiety is associated with not less than three of the following physical or cognitive symptoms, including fatigue, restlessness, muscle tension, irritability, difficulty concentrating, and sleep disturbances. If you have experienced three or more of these symptoms on a regular basis for 6+ months, you most likely are living with Generalized Anxiety Disorder.
Commonly Missed Anxiety Symptoms in Women:
Many women struggle to simply focus on what’s happening around them. They begin a task and then shortly after may realize, “Woah. My mind has totally been wandering.” This lack of focus can become a detriment to productivity.
Sometimes it’s worrying thoughts that are distracting the person with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, but other times that person is unable to focus long enough to complete the task at hand. Either of these can still point to you experiencing anxiety.
Tossing and turning is a symptom of anxiety in women ages 30 to 50. Mothers are used to losing solid, uninterrupted sleep when the baby comes, but there could be other signs to look out for. If your day is full of anxiety then your sleep might be interrupted by nightmares or other internal thoughts.
You get in bed to catch some shut-eye and the thoughts that plague you make it nearly impossible to fall asleep. You might eventually be able to drop off to sleep, but sleep is still elusive. If this is part of your nightly routine, you might be suffering from anxiety.
Symptoms of Panic Disorder
A panic attack happens suddenly and escalates to its peak within minutes. It’s diagnosed when four of the below symptoms are met and often can be overlooked because the symptoms are similar to heart disorders, breathing issues and other health problems.
Recurring panic attacks include four or more of the following symptoms. Pounding heart or accelerated heart rate, palpitations, trembling or shaking, sweating, feelings of choking, feeling short of breath or like you are smothering, discomfort or pain in the chest, feeling dizzy, nausea or abdominal distress, unsteadiness, light-headedness, or faintness, paresthesia (numbness or tingling sensations), chills or heat sensations, fear of losing control or “going crazy,” derealization (feelings of unreality) or depersonalization (being detached from oneself), fear of dying.
At least one panic attack is followed by one month of persistent worry of having more panic attacks. Also, there’s a presence of persistent behavioral changes that occur to avoid an attack, including avoiding similar situations that caused the attack in the first place.
Commonly Missed Symptoms:
Accurately Identifying Physical Symptoms as Anxiety
A panic attack itself is extremely noticeable. The physical signs can be frightening for someone who has never suffered through an anxiety attack. However, interpreting the symptoms accurately is harder to do.
Perhaps you have been experiencing tightness of the chest for days and wonder if your heart is healthy. This is one of the ways symptoms aren’t viewed accurately because anxiety may not have been on your radar as the problem.
The Fear of Recurring Panic Attacks
Once you’ve gone through a panic attack, a fear can grip you about when the next anxiety attack will occur. The worry about physically experiencing another panic attack is all-consuming, yet a normal part of the anxiety experience of a panic disorder.
Symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
PTSD symptoms occur after being exposed to death, injury, or violence. This can happen by directly witnessing the trauma, or by learning the details of a trauma indirectly.
PTSD also happens when you’re experiencing the traumatic event in certain ways that include nightmares, flashbacks, intrusive thoughts or exposure to something that triggers traumatic reminders. Completely avoiding thoughts, feelings, or reminders of the traumatic experience can also be a symptom of PTSD. Usually, symptoms must have lasted for one month, but not all symptoms have to exist to be diagnosed with PTSD.
Commonly Missed Symptoms:
Women often internalize traumatic events and feel responsible for what happened. In an attempt to minimize the pain, they just self-blame. Women are known to shoulder burdens and this behavior puts them at higher risk for experiencing PTSD when they are exposed to a traumatic event.
Christian Counselors Are Ready to Help
Don’t let the pressure of being perfect prevent you from seeking help. If you are women between the ages of 30 and 50 and find yourself relating to what’s been shared in this post, help is out there. Taking the step of finding a counselor can be daunting, but it can lead to incredible freedom in your life. Counseling can help in ways you might not even realize.
Remember, you are not alone. Anxiety is common and treatable. A professional, established counselor will come alongside you during this season of life and equip with the tools to take on your anxiety.
“Portrait,” courtesy of Remy Loz, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Alone,” courtesy of Ann Demianenko, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Nervous,” courtesy of Eddie Kopp, unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Trapped,” courtesy of Paul Gilmore, unsplash.com, Public Domain License