According to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (2018) anxiety was one of the most common mental health disorders in 2017. The research showed that 284 million people globally suffered from anxiety that same year, and around 63 percent of the 284 million were women and the rest 37 % were male. The study also exhibits that women in all countries around the world were more affected by anxiety in comparison with the other sex, and it has been so ever since the 1990s.
According to a study examined by McLean and Hofmann (2011) women are more likely to experience a lifespan diagnosis of anxiety disorder than males. The research focused on American adults, and they used data from Collaborative Psychiatric Epidemiology Studies (CPES). The result indicated that the only anxiety type that didn’t have any gender differences was social anxiety disorder, other anxiety types were significantly higher for women. It was also found that women suffering from a lifetime diagnosis were more likely to develop a further anxiety disorder, for example, major depressive disorder. Furthermore, the affected women had a greater burden of the disease than the man had.
The symptoms of the disease vary between the two genders. Women have been shown to have more severe and dangerous symptoms than men. Hu and Zheng (2017) show that the female population is twice as diagnosed with PTSD as the male population. Females are also developing stronger PTSD symptoms than males. Nightmares, pain in the body, flashbacks, irritability are some examples of symptoms that are more significant for the female gender. PTSD symptoms were also examined in the study made in 2018. Did 589 adolescence between the ages of 15 and 19 years participate? The participants were introduced to a checklist, DSM-5, that includes life events such as sexual assault, transportation accidents. Each person got to answer the events. The results indicated that women were more likely to be diagnosed with PTSD than males ( 26,3% vs 14,7%). The male participants meet more criteria for transportation accidents and assault with a weapon. While the females scored higher on most PCL-5 items. The difference between the symptoms was that women had more emotional effects, while men had self-destructive behavior, due to their life events.
The symptoms of PD (panic disorder) diverge as well between the sexes. In a study done in 2002 (Sheik & Klein), 609 patients who had panic attacks or were diagnosed with panic disorder were analyzed. The study analyzed 18 different PD symptoms. The result showed that heart pounding was a common symptom for both genders. However, the women In the panic disorder group suffered more from shortness of breath (75% versus 50%), feeling suffocation (60 % versus 43%), and feeling faint (59% versus 45%). While in the panic attack group the result was (65% versus 50%) when it comes to shortness of breath, (50% versus 38%) feeling suffocation, and (37 % versus 25%) difficulty swelling. The general symptoms for males were instead sweating and feeling pain in the stomach.
The brain’s function and structure are two sub-areas that many studies have focused on when it comes to gender differences. Much of the research is on the fear of extinction, the brain’s short and long memory, and learning. However, much of the studies have focused mainly on the male gender. The fact is that less than 2 % of the studies done have focused on the female gender. Regardless of the minimal research, the studies do uncover the structural sex differences in the brain regions relevant to anxiety, such as the amygdala complex and hippocampus. The gonadal hormones for the female sex can induce anxiety by causing functional hypothyroidism. Also, a woman with estrogen dominance may have adequate levels of total cortisol in the bloodstream (Milad & Milad, M.R., 2012).
In another study, which was implemented by McHenry and Carrier (2014) shows that the female gonadal hormones, such as estrogen and progesterone appear to have effects on the functions of anxiety-related neurotransmitter systems and affect fear extinction. It is given that women are more likely to experience mood disturbances during times of hormonal flux, such as when they are pregnant and during their menstruation. The gonadal hormones among the male population have the same effect. The difference between males and females when it comes to testosterone is that males with hypogonadism can reduce levels of testosterone. males with hypogonadal show a higher prevalence of anxiety disorders. The study talks also about how testosterone therapy can be good and bad depending on age and the body. Older hypogonadal men with anxiety are better at alleviating anxiety symptoms. There is little to know about testosterone therapy in women but some evidence support anxiety roles for testosterone.
In another experiment, Zimmerberg and Farley ( 1993) examined sex differences in anxiety behaviors in rats, where their main focus was on the gondola hormones. The two experiments showed two results, in the end, the first result showed that the adult female Long-Evans rats had less anxious behavior than the males if they were spending more time on the open arms of the plus-maze. In the second experiment, the result was different from the first one. Both the male and the female rats have received neonatal treatment and a prepubertal treatment. The adult female Long-Evans rats that received either the neonatal treatment or the prepubertal treatment spent less time on the open arms, where the males were not affected by the absence of gonadal hormones during the experiment. Both experiments indicate that the female gonadal hormone plays an important role in anxiety behavior.