Women Who Worry

Are women more anxious than men? If so, are we born that way or does panic just evolve, along with the wrinkles?

Before you drown me out with howls of protest, let me say this : I don’t think we can characterise women like we would potatoes. We’re not all the same and thus we’re not all headless chickens. However, in my limited experience, women tend to internalise stress more than guys. Glen’s not agonising at three in the morning about whether the guy at the cheese counter hates him, just because he mispronounced the word ‘Gruyere’.

Also, speaking as a resident of the Emerald Isle, potatoes are a seriously under-rated commodity. And even if we are a species of potato, then that still allows for hundreds of different varieties under the same label. Right?

Sorry. It’s been a long, long day, it’s approaching tea-time and my head feels like a baggy nappy. I’ll move on.

Anxious women. Born or bred?

A new American book entitled ‘Nerve’ (aka ‘Poise under Pressure, Serenity under Stress and the Brave New Science of Fear and Cool’ – catchy, eh?), argues that the sexes are born with identical levels of anxiety, but that girls tend to accumulate it with age. By the age of 11, boys and girls are equally likely to suffer from an anxiety disorder, but by 15, girls are six times more likely to suffer from one.

Why is this?

The author, Taylor Clark, attributes it to ‘the skinned knee effect’. This means that when things go wrong, the sexes are treated differently. Little girls are comforted, but little boys are told to man up and try again. Girls then assume that their actions were at fault, whilst boys blame externals. (I guess this might explain why at school, my sister and I always came out of exams wailing that we’d utterly stuffed them up, whilst my brother would leave half-way through, claiming to have unlocked the key to the universe, let alone the set questions).

The ‘skinned knee effect’ means that girls apparently learn to wallow in their fear, whilst boys ignore it and move on. Another theory is that, by comparing themselves to other women, we push up our anxiety levels.

So what’s the solution? As a work in progress, for once I’m loath to comment.  But constantly running ourselves down or trying to outdo each other can’t be helping. Nor is wrapping our girls in cotton wool, whilst little Johnny’s out building a tank in the garden.

4 thoughts on “Women Who Worry

  1. A tank in the garden? What a great idea for a project for my future son…

    I liked this article, v interesting and insightful as always.

    Another thought – do you think guys worry less because they have a greater level of self-confidence/arrogance that they’ll be able to do whatever they have to do when it comes down to it. Whereas girls are perhaps less secure in this respect (which would also perhaps explain why they work harder too).

  2. I’m not sure how one would go about measuring the level of worry of a woman as compared to that of a man? The thought that popped into my head while reading was that Jesus’ admonition to not be anxious doesn’t appear to be directed specifically toward a throng of hand-wringing women…so I suspect men experience plenty of worry that perhaps is focused or expressed differently than that of women.

    The concept of women internalizing fear and thus being more likely to suffer long-term effects makes sense, though.

  3. Thanks Jon.

    You might be right that guys have more confidence because they think they’ll be able to carry things through. The question then is, why? Is it nature or nurture?

    Also if you do get round to making the tank, will you come and build one in our garden?

  4. That’s a great point Heather. And the story of Mary and Martha points to the same thing – we don’t just hear about Martha. We’re given another model of a strong women who can prioritise and give her worries to the Lord.

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