Why are women twice as likely to develop anxiety disorders than men?
Source: Our World in Data
The good and the bad thing about having twins is that you always have a control!
I have 7-year-old boy/girl twins. Both are equally confident, happy, and competitive. There are hardly any gender differences in their self-regulation of emotions (i.e, both are equally prone to crying when they don't get their way and equally quick to recover when they do).
So, when I see charts like the above...
...it makes me wonder.
How is it that, in every single country, more women experience anxiety disorders than men do (It is three times higher now that we are in the middle of a pandemic, for both sexes)?
So when does this start? At what age do I need to pay attention to the risk factors associated with higher anxiety with my daughter compared to my son?
I dug in to learn more.
Well, it appears that among all anxiety disorders: separation anxiety disorder, specific phobia, and social anxiety appears before the age of 15 years, whereas obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), posttraumatic stress disorder, panic disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder began, on average, between 20 and 35 years.
But what was surprising was that in several large studies, there was no difference between boys and girls on when it starts, suggesting that the period of greatest vulnerability for developing an anxiety disorder is the same for men and women.
So there are other things going on which increase the risk of anxiety disorders in women? Is it genetics? hormonal? social factors?
In the next essay, I will examine the neurobiology of fear and what is its possible role in developing anxiety, and if it has a gender bias.