Women’s Mental Health Matters

Mental disorders can affect women and men differently. Some disorders are more common in women such as depression and anxiety. There are also certain types of disorders that are unique to women. For example, some women may experience symptoms of mental disorders at times of hormone change, such as perinatal depression, premenstrual dysphoric disorder, and perimenopause-related depression.

Warning Signs

Women and men can develop most of the same mental disorders and conditions, but may experience different symptoms. Often women are socialized to express their feelings in certain ways, and not others. This can result in their mental health problems looking different than men’s, which is often categorized by the medical field as “atypical.” For example, women who are depressed report more physical symptoms than men.

There are mental health issues unique to women. For example, reproductive-related issues like postpartum depression.

Some symptoms include:

~ Persistent sadness or feelings of hopelessness
~ Misuse of alcohol and/or drugs
~ Dramatic changes in eating or sleeping habits
~ Appetite and/or weight changes
~ Decreased energy or fatigue
~ Excessive fear or worry
~ Seeing or hearing things that are not there
~ Extremely high and low moods
~ Aches, headaches, or digestive problems without a clear cause
~ Irritability
~ Social withdrawal
~ Suicidal thoughts

Women are more often the primary caregivers in families and can experience stress balancing their multiple roles: mother, employee, friend, etc. Consequently, while women may feel shame to share their mental health issues, they have unique health-care needs for solid selfcare. In addition to feeling too ashamed to seek help for a mental disorder, many women simply aren’t aware that their symptoms constitute an illness that can be treated. A big step toward improving the diagnosis and treatment of mental health conditions in women rests in education: providing information about the prevalence of mental illness, the negative effects it has on women and their families, and the many resources available to help them receive the treatment they need to return to health.

The National Institute of Mental Health states that General Anxiety Disorder (GAD) as experiencing “excessive anxiety or worry” for most days over a period of six months. Other anxiety disorders include panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, social anxiety disorder (or social phobia), separation anxiety disorder, and phobia-related disorders (such as fear of flying, fear of heights, or fear of specific objects). While 19% of all adults in the U.S. report having experienced anxiety disorder in the past year, the percentage is much higher for women than for men (23.4% vs. 14.3%).

Symptoms of anxiety disorder include the following:

~ Chronic irritability or nervousness
~ Feelings of impending doom or disaster
~ Racing heartbeat, hyperventilating, sweating, or trembling
~ Weakness or tiredness
~ Inability to concentrate
~ Sleeplessness
~ Stomach aches or other digestive problems

Women may be less likely than men to seek treatment after experiencing symptoms of mental illness. This is due to “internalized or self-stigma” that results from their self-image being formed by how others perceive them.

Perinatal Depression

WHO estimates that worldwide, 10% of pregnant women and 13% of women who have just given birth experience a mental disorder, primarily depression. Perinatal depression, which encompasses both categories of women, impairs a woman’s ability to function and also hinders the development of the child. While pregnant women everywhere are susceptible to perinatal depression and other mental illnesses, the problem is greatest in developing countries, where WHO estimates that 20% of mothers experience postpartum depression.

Perinatal depression is exacerbated by poverty, migration, stress, and exposure to violence, according to research compiled by WHO. The organization emphasizes the need to integrate maternal mental health with general health guidelines, along with educating women about children’s health and reproductive health.


Therapists are available to speak on a variety of topics related to mental health and the coronavirus pandemic, such as the effects of the pandemic and isolation on those with and without mental illnesses; healthy ways to deal with stress, anxiety, and loneliness; how to talk with children and teens about the coronavirus; and how people can find mental health help and support if they need it.

If you struggle with your mental health, you may be entitled to a range of welfare benefits. Disabilities caused by mental health problems are supposed to be treated the same as physical disabilities in the benefits system. You can visit your regular GP, or if you don’t have a doctor you normally see, any GP can create a mental health care plan for you. Creating a plan can take a little longer than a normal appointment, so it can help to ask for a longer or double appointment when you make your booking.

A new study reveals that cognitive therapy over the phone is just as effective as meeting face-to-face. For all but an infrequent, identifiable clinical group with more severe illness, therapy over the phone was as effective as face to face, and the cost per session was 36.2% lower.

The most important issue for all women is seek help when experiencing any symptoms; drop the shame, stop hiding and get help.

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