Why modern women are so anxious

Sunshine posits the question: Why are modern women so anxious?

I was interested in what she had to say because I too sometimes have really bad anxiety symptoms in large stores.  It started when I was in my mid-thirties, and while I wouldn’t call them full blown panic attacks, the symptoms can be intense enough to be very physically uncomfortable.  The sensation is one of panic, like I need to drop everything and run, along with a racing heart and that clenchy feeling in my stomach.  Mine are not nearly as bad as my supervisor’s, and I can get through whatever shopping needs to be done by praying for God to flood me with peace and by repeating phrases to myself like It is okay.  I am okay.  My family is fine.  I can get my groceries and then I can leave.  God is with me.  Also paying close attention to my breathing, keeping it even and deep, helps.

So a couple of things I’ve noticed is that it isn’t really the crowds that are the problem; I can go to church without panicking, for example, although sometimes large concerts and sporting events make me tense until we are in our seats.  Another aspect is that it seems to be exacerbated during the school year when I’m working and abates somewhat (but not completely) when I’m home in the summer.

Obviously, the simple patriarchal answer is that: Women do best under a structure of authority and boundaries.

In general, anxiety is a fear response. Fear response tends to manifest when we feel like we aren’t protected. Women aren’t protected when they are removed from the authoritative covering of their fathers or husbands. Hence, why women were given from the father to the husband in marriage. You could say that fear and anxiety is the natural price of independence: You have to take care of and protect yourself. If you are a Bible believing Christian then the answer is simple. Women weren’t created to shoulder that burden alone.

Modern women who opt into egalitarian marriages do not see their husbands as providers and protectors. Hence, it should be no surprise that they still live in fear and anxiety over many aspects of life.

Now, much of these this fear and anxiety should be taken to God first before women take it to their fathers and husbands. God fills the the God-sized hole of need within all humans. However, if a woman is anxious about a particular situation this is where a father or a husband can help her set boundaries.

For example, if working or say PTA involvement or church involvement is causing a wife anxiety, a husband can look out for his wife by telling her to cut back. This exempts her from the rock and a hard place:

  • The uncomfortable situation of not wanting to cut back because others at work, PTA, or church may see her as slacking or not good enough for the position versus having the stress, workload, and responsibilities of the particular positions.

Thus, the responsibility of the decision making and boundaries are placed upon her husband and not her. It is the quintessential responsibility offload a wife can use: “If you have a problem, you can take it up with my husband.”

This is simply one of the ways that fathers and husbands add that protective layer of covering over their wives and those under their authority. Likewise, this is the same as with the Father and Christians. If we decide to go our own way and sin and thus step out from under God’s protective covering then we logically should have a holy fear and anxiety about things going wrong.

I talk about more about this rational fear versus irrational fear here. I think most of the anxiety and fear that women go through now is rational. That is women deny their nature that God created and want to go independent on their own. However, I don’t doubt that some of womens’ fear can be irrational if they are built on lies about who the Father is and who they are in Christ. Chiefly, our adoption as children of the Father.

Romans 8:14 For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. 15 For you have not received a spirit of slavery [g]leading to fear again, but you have received [h]a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.

Of course, all of these require trust in the Father, womens’ fathers, and wives’ husbands. Unfortunately, this is not the norm but the exception.

edit:

I am also convinced that this is why Paul tells Titus and Timothy that women should be workers at home, and why Proverbs is about a woman working out of her home.

Titus 2:3 Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, 4 so that they may [b]encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, 5 to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.

Simply put, taking jobs outside of the home like the ancient and modern workplaces will place women in the role of “independent worker with certain responsibilities” within a company. Women generally don’t like making important decisions with responsibility and hence it becomes a source of fear and anxiety in regard to failure.

I don’t doubt that secretaries under their boss don’t really have the same issue as say a doctor, physical therapist, OT, SLP, dentist, pharmacist, those in business, those in trades, or those in STEM careers or other professionals may have. There is more autonomy and responsibility with certain career paths than with others that can lead to fear and anxiety in women.

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13 Responses to Why modern women are so anxious

  1. Pingback: Why modern women are so anxious | Manosphere.com

  2. Heather G says:

    i suggest you actually do a study – take 1000, or 2000 women, and ask them to rate their level of anxiety, ask if they ever have panic attacks and how often, and then see if there is any correlation to them having a husband or male boss, compared to single women or women with female bosses, etc. Otherwise, this is just your theory.

    I don’t struggle with anxiety at all. Just not an issue for me. And I’m single, and I don’t have a male boss.

    But my situation is also meaningless – it’s what would be called “anectdotal evidence” – taking one person’s or a handful of peoples’ experiences and deciding what is or isn’t true in a more universal way – just as Sunshine’s experience is anectdotal. Instead, you have to have a well-designed study and several hundred or even several thousand people to be able to definitively make such a decision. And you have to be able to rule out other factors. It’s good too if you can do a “twin study” – study groups of two identical female twins in completely different environments – one with a strong male leader in her life, one without – and see if their anxiety levels are different.

  3. @ Heather G

    Otherwise, this is just your theory.

    Well, theories are well supported by evidence. I believe the scientific term you are looking for is hypothesis.

    Aside from that, you know as well I as do, that no studies on this topic are really ever going to be done. What we do know is that:

    ~ Women are more anxious now than ever
    ~ Women are less happy now than ever
    ~ Women are on more anti-depressants now than ever

    Statistically, what changed over the past 50 years?

    Women got more rights, no fault divorce, contraception, feminism, the sexual revolution, workplace freedom, and many other so-called good things.

    Obviously, as a Christian I am applying Biblical principles to such a situation as it is the Truth and makes the most sense. However, if you don’t agree that’s fine. I’m curious to know what your thoughts are to why women are more anxious then if you do not believe my Scriptural interpretation.

  4. Heather G says:

    The field of psychiatry has ballooned in the past 50 years – it used to be taboo to see a psychiatrist, now it is acceptable/normal. In the past, no one took psych drugs unless they were completely insane – now psych drugs are mainstream.
    This isn’t just a female thing – males are diagnosed with anxiety issues constantly too. Would be interesting to pull up stats, I suppose – although men in general are more reluctant to seek out any form of medical care, so I would imagine stats on psych visits would be a bit lower for men as well. But again, I’m just guessing. Lets find some stats.

    However the way hypothesis’s like this work is that you see things through a particular frame. If females are being treated for anxiety now more than in the past, you see it through a lens of “it’s because of feminism.” If men are also seeking out anxiety treatment more now than in the past, it’s possible that you could apply the same frame to the problem – “its because of the way feminism affects men.” But I will look up some stats nonetheless.

  5. Heather G says:

    Well, here’s a page that says that women suffer from some of these issues at twice the rate of men. But again, you’d have to cross reference it with how many of them have strong male leaders in their lives? What if it turned out that the more frequently a woman had a strong male leader in her life, the more frequently she had anxiety issues? You never know until you do the research.

    http://www.adaa.org/about-adaa/press-room/facts-statistics

  6. @ Heather G

    However the way hypothesis’s like this work is that you see things through a particular frame. If females are being treated for anxiety now more than in the past, you see it through a lens of “it’s because of feminism.” If men are also seeking out anxiety treatment more now than in the past, it’s possible that you could apply the same frame to the problem – “its because of the way feminism affects men.”

    Yep, we all have a bias of lenses.

    It’s more like feminism encourages inversion of roles:

    Women are pushed to be strong, independent, have careers, and otherwise have it all.

    Men are pushed to share their emotions, be nice (whatever that means), respect women, defer to women, and to not be leaders in relationships.

    Women are praised. Masculinity is demonized.

    Hence, my contention: whenever you push people away from who they were created to be it will ultimately result in sin, unhappiness, fear, anxiety, etc.

  7. Heather G says:

    I agree with you that pushing people away from who they are designed to be is apt to lead to all sorts of emotional twistedness. But where I may disagree with you is that a woman isn’t being who she is designed to be simply because there’s a strong male leader in her life – it really depends on the type of strong leadership that guy has.
    Does he use his leadership to lift her up and discover her gifts and encourage her into a deeper relationship with the Lord and her unique callings?
    (I don’t know if you ever saw the Notebook – and it is just a movie – but there are two guys in there – the girl loved to paint, and the one guy was like, “great, you like to paint! Go ahead, paint.” But the other guy made a special room in his house for her to paint in, and filled it with painting supplies. One of those guys really paid attention to the way that woman was designed, the other treated her design as a side issue – he didn’t use his leadership to make sure she was being who she was called to be.
    I know that women who get married are called to be wives and mothers first and foremost, but all I’m saying is that it doesn’t end there. Both men and women have unique designs from God that aren’t JUST about them being spouses and parents – each one is unique and God wants to use those uniquenesses. So it’s not just about needing “a strong male leader” – but about needing a strong male leader who really also believes in her as a person. Otherwise even under a strong male leader she might wither.

    This by the way is the closest study I can find to anything we are discussing here:
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19939327

  8. @ Heather G

    I know that women who get married are called to be wives and mothers first and foremost, but all I’m saying is that it doesn’t end there. Both men and women have unique designs from God that aren’t JUST about them being spouses and parents – each one is unique and God wants to use those uniquenesses. So it’s not just about needing “a strong male leader” – but about needing a strong male leader who really also believes in her as a person. Otherwise even under a strong male leader she might wither.

    I agree. Hence, the command to husbands to nourish and cherish her as his own body in Ephesians 5.

    That’s why I bring everything back to Scripture.

  9. echono says:

    You really need some solid data to support your hypothesis. One woman’s panic disorder is just not enough.

    Furthermore, if you looked into historical accounts, it’s very likely you’d see that women from the past, confined to domestic roles and living under their husband’s rule, were no less anxious. I’m sure you’ve heard of the “mother’s little helper:”
    http://www.britannica.com/topic/Mothers-Little-Helper
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-1051989/Mothers-little-helper-returns-drug-takers-use-Valium-cheap-alternative-heroin.html

    For comparable data in (self) medicating, see men’s alcoholism rates, which are very strongly related to anxiety.

  10. @ echono

    It’s hardly one.

    Medications simply show that an “issue” exists for whatever reason, which coincidentally support my point for the 1960s and 1970s. It was the same eras that discontentment at the home from feminism, no fault divorce, and related topics started to be pervasive in the culture.

  11. Wizard Prang says:

    “Of course, all of these require trust in the Father, womens’ fathers, and wives’ husbands. Unfortunately, this is not the exception but the norm.”

    Confused. Don’t you mean “Unfortunately, this is not the norm but the exception”? Or did I miss something?

  12. @ Wizard Prang

    Oops. Fixed.

  13. The only potential problem I see with this model is that women end up having no responsibility of their own. It places them in a position of subjugation, which leads to another anxiety: being a people pleaser, their entire identities and sense of self worth being completely depedent on someone else. Indepdence isn’t the answer I agree, but cooperation and collaboration is the answer. Christ may indeed know our true nature, but I think as responsible Christians we have a duty not to drive women completely insane, either. 😀

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