15 Eye-Opening Scientific Facts About Women & Anxiety

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Worried that your cold is actually cancer? That your kids will be kidnapped on their way to school? That your cable repair guy will come back once his shift is over and rob you? If you live with anxiety, you know the constant fear of which we speak. And we're not exaggerating -- although we wish we were.

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From the time of puberty to about age 50, women are TWICE as likely to have an anxiety disorder as a man. Here's what you should know about this unsettling mental health disorder.

1. A little anxiety is a GOOD thing. It's what alerts us to potential dangers, after all. But in some people, your brain's "fight or flight" response is triggered, then doesn't turn off. You feel a heightened sense of danger, and become preoccupied looking for it. Voilà -- anxiety!

2. Anxiety creeps up on you. Generalized anxiety disorder, in which you expect the worst for no apparent reason, doesn't happen overnight. It comes on gradually. The risk is highest between childhood and middle age.

3. Having anxiety is more than "feeling anxious." Feel on edge? Get easily tired out or have muscle tension? Does your mind go blank for no reason? Are you irritable, having a hard time concentrating or sleeping at night? If you have three or more of these symptoms on more days than not over a period of six months, you may have an anxiety disorder.

4. Anxiety can make you feel physically sick. Chest pain, elevated heart rate, diarrhea, nausea ... Anxiety has the power, unfortunately, to trigger all these uncomfortable symptoms.

5. Genes are only one cause. Yes, biology may have a hand in who has anxiety, but more often than not, anxious people grew up in anxious households and it's a behavior that was learned.

6. Early childhood trauma has a strong link to anxiety. Whether you lived through an obvious event, like the death of a parent, or struggled with more subtle trauma, such as constant criticism, coping with emotional or physical hardship early in life on sets you up to be anxious.

7. Some medicines cause anxiety -- or make it worse. Asthma inhalers, steroids, hormones, blood pressure prescription drugs -- these are just some of the pharmaceuticals that can make you feel on edge. (But don't stop taking yours without speaking first to your doctor, BTW.)

More from The Stir: Mom's Selfie With Her Anxiety Prescription Sets Off a #MightyandMedicated Movement (PHOTOS)

8. There's more than one way to feel anxious. You can have a phobia -- an irrational fear of something, be it airplanes or baby zebras. Social anxiety disorder is an intense fear of being judged by other people. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is another form of anxiety, as is obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

9. Pregnancy changes everything. Just over 50 percent of women become MORE anxious when they're expecting. But (just to keep you guessing) 32 percent of women actually see a decrease in anxiety symptoms.

10. Anxiety gets worse if not treated. We'd all like to think this constant feeling of dread will go away on its own. But in fact, if left untreated, symptoms of anxiety can get worse. Think: panic attacks, irrational thoughts and behaviors, compulsive rituals, nightmares, or flashbacks.

11. Sitting = anxiety. Researchers aren't sure why, but the more you sit during the day, the more anxious you'll feel. (It doesn't matter whether you're watching TV, working at a computer, or checking your phone.) Switching to standing or taking breaks to stretch or move can help.

12. Some music can make it worse, too. Listen to Lana del Rey (or ANY sad tunes) when you try to calm down? Doing so may make you even MORE anxious. Finnish and Danish researchers found that music can have a long-term effect on the brain. And sad, fearful, or aggressive music didn't have a good one, let's put it that way.

13. There's no one way to treat anxiety. Many women get relief with cognitive-behavioral therapy, in which you're taught to ID your negative thought patterns and work to change them. Hypnotherapy works for some people. So do "talk" therapies that focus more on unearthing and working through the childhood roots of your problem. Some medications, like antidepressants, can also help address the glitchy brain chemistry that feeds anxiety.

14. You've got natural options. Regular, intense workouts like running can relieve anxiety. So can therapeutic massage, acupuncture, and eating a diet that's heavy on fresh fruits and veggies and whole grains. Did we mention you should cut back on alcohol, smoking, and caffeine? You should. All make anxiety worse.

15. Relief can come quicker than you think. True, your anxiety may wax and wane depending on what's going on in your life, but many people who work with a therapist see their symptoms lessen in just a few sessions. 

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