Do Women Have More Anxiety Symptoms Than Men?

Anxious young woman covers her face wearing a Don't Worry shirt

It seems as if, in Western culture, we have stereotyped women and girls as more anxious than boys and men. Although we are not sure if girls actually have more anxiety than boys, we do know that the genders display anxiety differently. For parents, knowing these differences can be important for identifying whether your child is struggling from anxiety symptoms.

Anxiety Symptoms and Appearances

Dr. Leonard Sax, M.D., Ph.D. writes in the New York Times how boys and girls display anxiety differently. He notes that a key component is appearance. Sax says that research shows that during adolescence, girls become more dissatisfied with their physical appearance while boys become more satisfied. Girls also seek out social acceptance, while boys are more concerned with performance. These differences have been amplified by the presence of social media.

The Internet and Anxiety Symptoms

With the rise of greater internet use and social media, the differences between boys’ and girls’ have come into sharper relief. For example,

  • Girls tend to compare themselves negatively to their peers when using social media. When a girl sees a peer who appears to be beautiful and having fun, she can easily conclude that her life isn’t as great.
  • Research shows that boys actually spend less time on social media than girls and much more time time with online games. Here, they can have a platform for demonstrating performance through completing levels and achieving success in the game.

As a result, girls will become more anxious about being liked and accepted because of comparisons with their peers. This can become a vicious cycle that leads some girls to feel depressed or anxious that they aren’t accepted, and that everything about themselves is somehow “wrong.”

Ways to Fight Back

Sax has several suggestions for helping  parents to fight back. They include:

  • No TV’s, video games, or any screens whatsoever in the bedroom. When teens come home from school, they often go straight to their rooms and don’t come out until dinner, spending their time online. He says, “There should be nothing in the bedroom except a bed.”
  • No screens at the table. Create a “no-screen zone” at the dinner table where phones and other technology aren’t allowed. This gives everyone the opportunity to have a conversation with each other.
  • No headphones in the car. Often teens put on headphones or earbuds to listen to music while in the car. This shuts them off from the rest of the family. By having the headphones off, everyone can talk with each other, listen to music together, and have more quality time.

Anything that can allow your teen to unplug and have real-world interactions can help you better understand how they are doing and what they are feeling

Seeking Professional Help for Anxiety Symptoms

If you suspect that your daughter is struggling with anxiety symptoms, don’t hesitate to seek professional support. A psychologist trained in anxiety treatment techniques can help with understanding why she feels anxious and discuss the emotions that she is experiencing.  

Anxiety Symptoms and Adulthood

The problems that develop for teens can last well into adulthood. Adult women are not immune to comparing themselves unfavorably to friends and colleagues. Are you are suffering from constant negative comparisons of yourself to other women whom you imagine to be more attractive, successful or happy? Consulting with a psychotherapist who treats anxiety can help you to feel free of these self-defeating beliefs.

Click here to learn more about Anxiety Treatment with Jane Rubin, Ph.D.,  Licensed Clinical Psychologist.