May is both Women’s Health and Mental Health Month. We couldn’t think of a better time to bring light to women’s mental health issues. Each year, one in five women will be diagnosed with a mental health issue. Take a look at 5 facts about women’s mental health that you may not know.
Sociocultural Influences and Values Affect Women’s Mental Health
For the most part throughout time, women have been considered the subordinate gender in the household and responsible for the primary care of the home and children. However, many women are working mothers who work as many or more hours as their spouse or partner. While those social norms have shifted over the last few decades, women are still largely considered the “responsible party” for keeping things up at home. The stress to take on the duties of being both a working mother and homemaker has led to an increase in depression, anxiety, and panic disorders in women. Women who work from home or stay home as homemakers feel equal amounts of pressure to keep up with their peers. Social media has upped the ante of peer pressure on all levels and women are just as vulnerable to it as anyone.
The sexualization and brutality against women also affect their mental health. Women who are at the age of motherhood feel pressure to “bounce back” to their pre-baby bodies, a notion that simply isn’t a reality for everyone. Young women, including teen and pre-teen girls, are under more pressure than ever to be “sexy” and always ready for the perfect selfie. This unreal expectation of women and girls to be glamor beautiful 24/7 is destroying self-esteem and confidence, two qualities that are already shaky ground for many females.
In addition to the pressure to always look perfect, the sexualization of women goes hand in hand with the brutality against women. Most women live in some level of fear of being sexually assaulted or violated because it’s either happened to them before or they know someone or multiple someones that have been brutalized. Women and girls who have suffered sexual trauma are subject to mental health issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, panic disorder, depression, or suicidal thoughts or tendencies.
Biology Plays a Factor in Women’s Mental Health
If it seems like more women than men suffer from mood disorders like depression and mood swings, it’s because, well, they are. Women have lower serotonin levels than men because they absorb chemicals faster. Women are also more susceptible to hormonal changes. Both factors attribute to the mood swings that are common in women. Women are also more likely to develop a “unipolar” disorder, which is a mental disorder that does not cycle through other mental states such as mania. Depression and eating disorders are examples of these disorders that are more common among women. In fact, eating disorders affect women almost 10 times more frequently than men.
Depression, Panic Disorder, and Eating Disorders Most Common Women’s Mental Health Issues
Depression is the single most common mental health issue affecting women today. Many women turn to alcohol use years after the depression has set in, leading to addiction. Panic disorders, including anxiety and PTSD, are the second most common mental health problem among women. Often, women have both depression and panic disorder, especially those who have experienced some type of trauma in their lifetime. Women are twice as likely to develop PTSD from any type of trauma.
Eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia are often associated with teen girls and young women, but the truth is they can affect women at any time of any age. Binge eating is another type of common eating disorder among women that probably doesn’t get the attention that anorexia and bulimia receive. However, it’s still a danger to the overall health of women. Not only can binge-eating lead to unhealthy weight gain and other physical health issues, but it can make other mental health struggles worse.
Body Dysmorphia Another Common Mental Health Issue Among Women
Body dysmorphia goes beyond simply having an eating disorder. Some people with body dysmorphic disorder don’t have an eating disorder at all. Their loathing for their own physical appearance could come from something else, such as acne, hair, or another skin condition. Body dysmorphic disorder occurs when a person is so intensely anxious about a perceived physical flaw they seek “treatment” for their appearance. Although both men and women are affected by this disorder, it is more common among women.
Women Are More Likely to Attempt Suicide or Self-Harm Than Men
A 2018 National Survey of Drug Use and Mental Health revealed that women attempted suicide 1.5 times more often than men. However, men are more than 3.8 times more likely to die by suicide than women.
Adult women aren’t the only ones attempting to harm or kill themselves. A 2019 Youth Risks Behaviors Survey revealed girls in 9th through 12th grades attempted suicide at twice the rate of boys in their age groups.
If you struggle with a mental illness or disorder, you are not alone. If you’re unsure where to start with questions about treatment or diagnosis, your primary care provider is the first stop. Our nurse practitioners at EliteCare are ready to help you find the resources you need to step into recovery. Stop by to see one of our providers today or call to make an appointment.