Many women face struggles in life. Isolation, sadness, worries and trauma are a few common burdens women are weighed down by. It can be difficult to find help for yourself as a woman when you have so much else to hold together. You may have a home to maintain, kids to care for and/or a career to manage, making it difficult to find time for yourself. But you do not have to fight this battle alone. Although it might feel overwhelming or even impossible, there is help.
Understanding Women’s Issues and Stereotypes
Women tend to worry how others view them. They perceive social pressures to feel normal but struggle to actually pursue help. Oftentimes their self-image is molded by how others perceive them rather than how they see themselves.
Many women feel stigma for pursuing help with mental health issues because they fear what others might think. Women tend to rely more on opinions of others, having a low level of self-esteem, which can prevent them from getting the treatment they need.
Cultural stigmas exist as well that keep women from seeking help. Some minority women tend to be hesitant to get treatment. They may perceive seeking treatment as a sign of weakness rather than strength as they are raised to not be weak. They may feel it is difficult to maintain an image of strength if diagnosed with a mental illness, which is why they might avoid getting mental health treatment.
Some mental and physical health issues can be related to gender. Researchers have continued to look into various factors that contribute to the differences between mental health issues in women vs. men, including various environmental, psychosocial and biological factors.
Some certain mental and physical health concerned might be more impacted by gender, but women can also experience issues unrelated to gender. Domestic violence, lower socioeconomic status, gender socialization and other forms of violence (such as rape) may also contribute to problems with a woman’s overall health, including her mental health. For example, a single mother who works a full-time job but struggles to pay her bills every month might be at heightened risk for anxiety, depression and stress.
Some of the challenges women face to their mental health may be more related to gender-based assumptions or stereotypes. It was previously believed that the hippocampus, or part of the brain responsible in part for regulating memory and emotion, was larger in women than men. This belief was somewhat linked to stereotypes that women have better memory and are more emotional than men. However, this theory has been recently debunked. A 2015 study conducted by the Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science found that the human hippocampus is not sexually-dimorphic according to a meta-analysis of structural MRI volumes.
Women’s Mental Health Facts and Statistics
Millions of U.S. adults are treated for mental illness annually. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 46.6 million people got help in 2017, with the percentage of women treated being 50% more than men.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), over half of the patients who meet the criteria for mental illness are left undiagnosed. Family members and friends of a woman with an illness may not be aware of her need for therapy.
Severe mental illness is exhibited in women (5.7%) more than men (3.3%).
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is more likely to affect women than men. Unfortunately, only about 40% of people in the U.S. that suffer with the condition receive treatment. Another disorder, Panic Disorder (PD), is diagnosed two times more in woman than men. Furthermore, research from the World Health Organization states that depression is diagnosed at a higher rate in women who have been exposed to sexual abuse as a child or violence as an adult, with the severity of the illness being in correlation with the severity and duration of exposure.
Comorbid mental illness, which is defined as two or more disorders affecting one person, is more likely to affect women. The presence of multiple mental illnesses can make it more difficult to manage.
Women are also more likely to experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) than men. Unfortunately, women tend to postpone seeking a diagnosis longer than men. According to the Office of Women’s Health, women wait an average of four years after the onset of symptoms of the condition rather than one year for men.
Women are also more prone to eating disorders, which affect nearly ten times more women than men. 1.9% of women will experience anorexia each year compared to 0.2% in men. Between .05% and 1% of women will be impacted by bulimia annually.
Women are also more likely to experience serious mental health issues that interfere with daily function, which is why it is so important that women get help.
Women’s Mental Health Conditions
Women may experience mental health issues at any point during their lives. Some mof the most common mental health conditions experienced by women include:
- Posttraumatic stress
- Eating disorders
- Postpartum depression
- Borderline personality
- Mood-related struggles
- Postpartum psychosis
- Self-harming behaviors
- Body dysmorphic disorder
Therapy for Women
Despite the range of mental health challenges women face and their complexities, treatment is available. The first step to getting therapy for women is not being afraid to get help. There are many mental health professionals available to help women overcome struggles associated with their mental health, setting them on the path to recovery so they can be healthier overall.
From health centers to clinics, there are many professionals ready to offer therapy for women while diagnosing and treating mental health disorders. Many hold master’s degrees in the field as well as advanced degrees in addition to specific state licensing credentials and training. According to the Mayo Clinic, the most common types of practitioners and providers offering mental health services include:
- Psychiatrists: Psychiatrists are medical doctors (MDs) or doctors of osteopathy (Dos) who have a specialty in mental health. They can diagnose and treat mental health conditions as well as write prescriptions and offer counseling.
- Psychologists: These doctors typically hold a doctoral degree such as Psy.D., Ph.D. or Ed.D. and offer counseling in one-on-one sessions and in groups. Most are not able to write prescriptions themselves but those who cannot do work with other providers who can.
- Licensed clinical social workers: These types of workers have doctorates or master’s degrees in social work. Licensed professional counselors also have relevant clinical training and hold masters degrees. Both offer counseling and other services but cannot prescribe medication.
- Psychiatric mental health nurses: These nurses are registered nurses (RNs) with mental health training. Some are able to prescribe medications in certain states.
Individual therapy is ideal for treating most every type of mental health disorder. It is helpful for increasing one’s self-awareness, identifying boundaries, enhancing communication and encouraging self-exploration while encouraging healthy coping skills. From dialectical behavioral therapy, trauma sessions and cognitive behavioral therapy to motivational interviewing and psychiatry sessions, there are many options available to those facing issues.
Support groups are a helpful option for women coping with mental health challenges as well. Support groups can be found at the National Alliance for Mental Health Find Support page or by reaching out to a mental health therapist.
If you or a loved one are dealing with a mental health condition, it may feel scary or overwhelming but know that you are not alone. There is help available to help you get on the track to recovery so you can live a more enjoyable, fulfilling and purposeful life without being weighed down by mental health struggles.