It's a fact that most of my clients are women. They come with a variety of symptoms, but many speak about a desire to reduce or eliminate anxiety in their life.
So why is what I offer - hypnotherapy - appealing more with women?
Well the statistics show that women are twice as likely to suffer from anxiety, or develop anxiety disorders, than men, and this is more prevalent amongst Western populations.
More research is needed to understand why this is the case, but science and other studies do shed some light on factors:
Not surprising at all is that hormonal changes is a determinant.
Reproduction creates hormonal changes which are linked to anxiety. In fact pregnant women are particularly prone to obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) - a form of anxiety disorder - before and immediately after the birth of their baby. Other common mental health problems experienced during pregnancy and after birth are depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Menopause also brings hormonal changes which can cause feelings of anxiety or depression.
But there are other differences beyond biological changes.
Parenting, especially with a first baby, brings some level to anxiety for most parents. In the UK, the primary carer or parent is overwhelmingly the woman - around 90% - and therefore women are more prone to feeling the challenges of their child’s early years. Anxiety may be around in their baby / young child sleeping enough, eating enough, crying too much, spending too much time in daycare etc etc.
In addition, women and men seem to experience and react to events in their life differently. Women tend to be more prone to stress, which can increase their anxiety.
When faced with stressful situations, women and men tend to use different coping strategies. Women faced with stress are more likely to ruminate about them, which can increase their anxiety, while men engage more in active, problem-focused coping.
Other studies suggest that women are more likely to experience physical and mental abuse than men, and abuse has been linked to the development of anxiety disorders. Child abuse has been associated with changes in brain chemistry and structure, and research shows that women who have experienced sexual abuse may have abnormal blood flow in the hippocampus, a brain region involved in emotion processing.
What can be done?
Early recognition of symptoms is important so treatment can be sought. If anxiety is disrupting your daily life, it is recommended to make an appointment with your GP, and medication may be a treatment option. But focusing also on lifestyle changes such as exercise, eating better, good sleep hygiene, and doing mindfulness, meditation or yoga, are all good steps towards relieving symptoms.
Many people turn to cognitive behavioural therapy or hypnotherapy, which are both effective in reducing anxiety. A good therapist has a range of tools to be able to design an individualised therapeutic intervention to get the best outcome for the client.
In a simplified way, hypnotherapy helps clients understand that their mind has the best of intentions, such as keeping you safe and protected. When it sends out anxiety signals, it believes there is an imminent risk or danger. As therapists, we need to reassure the client’s mind that everything is ok and that it is safe. Clients also need to understand that if they have been around others with anxiety from a young age, it may be a ‘learned behaviour’. The subconscious mind stores what it sees or experiences on a regular basis as the norm.
Here are a few of the techniques I may use or discuss with clients:
Understand what is happening to you
Stop using the word ‘anxiety’