Mental Health and Women: What You Need to Know

Mental health plays a huge role in our overall health and well-being. One of the biggest challenges healthcare faces is the fight against mental health and the surrounding stigma associated with the disease.

 

But, what is Mental Health exactly? According to McLean Hospital, “Mental health reflects our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. Affecting how we think, feel, and act, mental health has a strong impact on the way we interact with others, handle problems, and make decisions.” Mental health is different than mental illness, “The term ‘mental health’ implies the absence of illness or disorder.” But often, because of that, symptoms of poor mental health are overlooked.

 

Mental health is tied to physical health as well. Chronic illnesses have been linked to poor mental health as well as sleep problems like insomnia and sleep apnea. People with mental health issues are also more likely to be smokers and often have a more challenging time accessing adequate health care.

 

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What is different about women’s mental health?

 

Women and men are affected differently by mental health conditions. Gender, predisposition, sociocultural influences, micro-aggressions, and how women are sexualized in our culture contribute to the impairment of women’s mental and overall health.

 

  • Women are twice as likely as men to be impacted by Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD).
  • Women may be less likely than men to seek treatment when experiencing symptoms of mental illness. This is due to “internalized or self-stigma” resulting from their self-image formed by others’ perceptions.
  • Women are more likely to experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and they wait much longer than men after symptoms arise to seek diagnosis and treatment.

The prevalence of serious mental illness is almost 70% greater in women than in men. Why?

 

  • Micro-aggression: Sixty-four percent of women experience micro-aggressions. They are everyday verbal and nonverbal slights or snubs – negative or hostile messages based solely on the person’s perceived marginalized group membership. Unconscious bias is still alive and thriving in workplace cultures. Some leaders still carry the assumption that males have more potential than well-qualified women. According to LeanIn.com, “Almost 2/3 of women face everyday sexism and racism—known as micro-aggressions—at work.”

 

  • Sociocultural: There has been a long tradition in society that women have been subordinate in the household with all the primary responsibilities for raising children. Nowadays, most women have the same household responsibilities but carry a full-time job as well. Before Covid, women were doing three times as much unpaid care and domestic work as men Recent polling suggests those numbers are even higher now due to the Covid Pandemic.

 

  • Sexualization: Females have unfortunately been sexualized in our culture, whether by magazines, movies, television shows, or peer relationships. According to the American Psychological Association, this repeated harmful sexualization may interfere with the healthy development of female self-esteem and self-image. These factors can lead to depression, anxiety, stress, and guilt and negatively impair women’s mental health.

 

  • Gender Differences: Women’s serotonin levels are lower than men’s because they absorb the chemical faster, leading to mood swings. Females are also more susceptible to hormonal changes than males. Biological variations may play a role in the emergence of specific mental health problems. In addition, for both sexes, the chance of an individual having a specific mental disorder is higher if other family members have that same mental disorder.

 

Here are the most common mental health conditions in women:

 

Depression: Women are twice as likely as men to suffer from depression. Depression is a feeling of overwhelming sorrow or melancholy that may be episodic (lasting days, weeks, or longer) or chronic, persistent depression (lasting for months or years).  Symptoms include consistent headaches, nausea, or other physical pain that does not respond to treatment, sadness, hopelessness, ineffectiveness or emptiness, the inability to sleep, excessive sleeping, or difficulty getting out of bed.

 

Panic Disorder: General anxiety disorder (GAD), phobias, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and social anxiety are all forms of panic disorders. Anxiety Disorder in General (GAD) affects an estimated 4 million Americans, with women being two times more likely than men to develop it. Anxiety attacks can last anywhere from a few minutes to several hours and are often followed by intense feelings of worry, stress, urgency, fear, fatigue, pain in the back, and sweating.

 

PTSD (post-Traumatic Stress Disorder): PTSD can affect anyone and is caused by a traumatic event, but women are twice as likely to experience it. Since women are often the victims of sexual or physical abuse, PTSD may significantly impact how they perceive the world and themselves. Women are more likely than men to develop PTSD as a result of sexual assault.

 

Eating Disorders: Sociocultural norms and sexualization of women contribute significantly to the development of negative self-confidence, negative body image problems, and low self-esteem in women. Everyday Health reports that women account for eighty-five percent of bulimia and anorexia cases and nearly sixty-five percent of binge eating disorder cases among those affected by eating disorders. Body Dysmorphic Disorder is a woman’s mental health condition where a person has intense anxiety over the perception of a physical flaw. People who suffer from body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) continually seek reassurance about their appearance and consider themselves “ugly” to the point of needing treatment.

 

What can you do?

Here are some ways to take care of yourself physically and mentally:

  • Talk about your feelings, and seek help from others. Talking to friends and family can lift the burden and help relieve stress.
  • Get regular exercise. Regular exercise can boost your self-esteem and can help you concentrate, sleep, and feel better. A daily 10-minute walk may increase your mental alertness leaving you energetic and in a good mood.
  • Eat a proper diet. Your brain needs a mix of nutrients to stay healthy and function well, just like the other organs in your body. Consider working with a qualified nutritionist to help you create a diet plan customized according to your needs.
  • Consider a supplement like Nupeutics Stress Master, a wildcrafted and organic proprietary blend made for anyone suffering from adrenal fatigue, stressful life periods, high cortisol, irritability, or high anxiety.
  • Drink sensibly and avoid drugs. Although drinking and smoking may make you feel better in the short term, they can harm both your physical and mental health.
  • Get enough sleep. A good night’s sleep is around seven to nine hours for adults. You can also take a 30-minute nap during the day to feel more alert.
  • Develop good mental practices. Try to focus on positive emotions and events rather than negative ones. Use relaxation techniques like meditation and deep breathing.
  • Ask for help. Talk to your healthcare provider; they can lead you to the help you may need.

 

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