Gendered social expectations can influence how women express and experience mood disorders and anxiety. Inaccurate stereotypes and gender bias unfortunately remain pervasive within many health fields, further complicating the way anxiety can be understood and diagnosed in women.

Women also endure higher rates of sexual violence and discrimination, sometimes exacerbating mental health symptoms, but the associated stigma and fear for safety can prevent women from feeling comfortable disclosing and sharing their experiences.

Major stereotypes I’ve observed:

  1. Women are more "sensitive" The idea that anxiety is simply explained by a woman's hypersensitivity is a myth that is should have died by now. The stigma and shame associated with this overgeneralization diminishes a person's anxiety symptoms, leading to a silent suffering.

  2. It's just PMS It is important to pay attention to and honor every part of a person's physiological experience when working with anxiety, to understand as much as possible all contributing factors, however, dismissing anxiety as a normal part of being a woman doesn't allow for a valid space to process how hard anxiety can be.

  3. Women get crazy and desperate in their 30's I am continuously surprised when I hear this from my clients, and I hear this fairly regularly. This is an internalized message my clients often repeat to me - if a woman is single and in her 30's, all of her mood symptoms or difficult emotions can be distilled into this one misogynistic stereotype. This can prohibit someone from acknowledging, validating, and working with her anxiety so she can feel better.

  4. Women need their anxiety to get ahead Women cope with many limiting stereotypes as they navigate their careers. The way women are expected to negotiate and advocate for themselves in a way that doesn't offend anyone has contributed to the idea that anxiety is a given in a difficult work environment. This can sometimes even manifest as a badge of honor - a woman is working so hard she has "Sunday Scaries" every week. This is another way in which the pain and discomfort that can come with anxiety can be dismissed.

  5. Women are just more neurotic The expectation that women manage multiple roles fosters an environment in which a woman is seen as multitasking and neurotic. This perpetuates the idea that women will manage this additional emotional labor, and further demeans any anxiety experience she may be having.

I’m here for you if you want to explore more. Contact me to schedule a free consultation.

laura federico