Women often try juggling many different tasks and personas at once, they may be struggling to make progress at work, while trying to be the perfect mother, wife or partner, maintaining high standards as a home keeper. All these pressures build up causing stress and emotion overload and feelings of incompetency and dissatisfaction.
It has been noted that women often add to their own stresses due to an instinctive maternal nature. This means that they may find it hard to ignore other people’s needs and often feel guilty if they are unable to please everyone.
It is often the case that the social stigma assoicated with women taking time to care for themsleves leads to the neglection of their physcial and emotional wellbeing. This can lead to long term problems with chronic stress and emotional and physical burtnout.
There are a number of causes of stress for women, research suggests that feelings of powerlessness and helplessness is a significant contributor. Major life events and changes have also been found to effect mental, emotional and physical health. Additionally, the fluctuation in hormones during the monthly cycle has been pinpointed as grounds for significant gender difference in both the causes and the responses to stress.
It has been proven that on the whole, women live longer than men. According to the Social Readjustment Rating Scale (SRRS) the list of most stressful life events, the death of a spouse is the highest cause of stress. Due to the fact that a woman is likely to outlive their husband or partner, they are at a greater risk of stress as a result of being widowed. Additionally, women are more vulnerable to suffering from stress for life events such as getting married and having a baby when compared to males. Hormones also have a significant impact on the way a women is able to cope with stress. Throughout a women’s lifetime there are a number of hormonal changes and imbalances. Each month a woman’s body goes through hormonal cycles, the fluctuation hormones oestrogen and progesterone can impact how much pressure they are able to withstand and deal with. Additionally, during and after pregnancy a women’s body goes through drastic hormonal changes. This can again cause emotional and physical changes both of which impacts their susceptibility to stress and depression. Finally, the menopause changes hormonal levels in the body which can again induce changes in stress levels and emotional wellbeing. Hormonal changes are often marked by emotional changes; these can impact relationships and the ability to cope with stress and the pressures of every day life. Physical changes may also accompany hormonal adjustments some physical changes alone can be a trigger for stress.
Finally, depending on how susceptible a woman is to daily stressors such as traffic on the way to work, a difficult co-worker or an upset child, a woman may be subjected to increased levels of stress and subsequently greater physical signs of stress such as headache, digestive problems and immune system complications.
Physical and psychological signs and symptoms of stress in women
Symptoms of stress in women vary between individuals and their coping mechanisms and personal stress thresholds. Below is a list of common signs and symptoms of stress in women. Some of the systems of stress may also be indicators of disease and illness and therefore should not be ignored. Consultation with a doctor is advised if these symptoms are causing problems with day to day activities.
Signs and symptoms of stress in women
|High blood pressure||Insomnia|
|Shortness of breath||Comfort eating or anorexia|
|Chest pain||Feelings of insecurity|
|Stomach cramps||Changes in close relationships|
|Muscle aches including back pain and neck pain||Feelings of insecurity and low self worth|
|Diminished or increased sex drive||Anxiety|
|Constipation or diarrhoea||Anger and hostility|
|Increased perspiration||Difficulty making decisions|
|Skin problems||Frequent mood swings|
|Hair loss||Negative thinking|
|Weight gain or loss||Distractibility|
|Over eating||Feeling overwhelmed or helpless|
|Increased alcohol consumption|
Stress in women can increase the instances or risk for:
- Headaches or migraines
- Bowel and digestion disorders
- Skin disorders including acne
- Eating disorders including anorexia and bulimia
- Emotional disorders including anxiety and depression
- Asthma attacks
- High blood pressure
- Heart attack
- Heart disease
- Immune system dysfunction including colds, flu and infections
- Cancer (particularly breast cancer)
- Sexual dysfunction