As a woman, you may not have realized that women experience unique mental health issues. It’s easy to dismiss such a notion because there does not appear to be much evidence for it. For instance, The American Psychiatric Association which publishes the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), does not distinguish between women and men for mental health disorders. However, if you dig deeper you will discover a growing body of evidence that biological and psychosocial factors do affect mental health mood disorders. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) has many reasons to believe that gender affects mental health. So although both sexes experience the same spectrum of mental health disorders, women may show a higher prevalence of depression and anxiety.
Women and Depression
According to large epidemiological studies women appear to be twice as likely to experience depression than men after puberty. This discrepancy might be because of the role female gonadal hormones play, a hypothesis based on the observation that the difference in depression between women and men is not statistically significant after women experience menopause.
Women, especially moms, are often at risk for depression. In fact, psychologists distinguish between different types of depression, such as perimenopausal depression, premenstrual dysphoric disorders, and perinatal depression.
Women and Anxiety
Anxiety in women is often determined by psychosocial factors rather than biology. However, the statistical difference is not between women and men but between heterosexual women and lesbian and bisexual women. According to a 2014 study on mental health, women in the LGBTQ population showed a higher prevalence of generalized anxiety disorder. This difference could be attributed to psychosociological factors.
Early Warning Signs of Serious Depression or Anxiety in Women
Since depression and anxiety are so common in today’s high-stress world, too many women tend to minimize their experience of depression or anxiety, dismissing it as a passing mood because of domestic- or work-related stressors.
It’s essential that you take these mental health issues seriously if you often feel sad or hopeless, if you misuse drugs or alcohol, or if you have noticed changes in your appetite or insomnia. Other signs that your depression or anxiety is not something that will go away on its own are recurring feelings of fear, persistent worry, and mood swings from high to low. It’s also a sign that you may need help for depression or anxiety if you also have headaches or tummy aches for no reason, get irritated at small things, withdraw socially, and muse about suicide.
Seeking Professional Help
Fortunately, psychologists have found many effective ways to treat depression and anxiety disorders. If you’re not sure where to start, then visit your family doctor to find out more about how to find a mental health care provider. You can also get guidance on where to go for professional treatments from the website of the National Institute of Mental Health.
Active Steps You Can Take Right Now
While visiting a mental health professional will help you get comprehensive care, there is plenty you can do on your own to improve how you feel.
Consider increasing your level of activity and exercising more, setting realistic goals about your life situation, and spending time with people whom you can confide in.
If you feel depressed or anxious, postpone any major life challenges you’re thinking about such as getting into or out of a relationship or a marriage, changing careers or jobs, or moving to a new city or state. Once you take this decision-making pressure off yourself, you will have more space to focus on healing your emotions. You will also be able to make far more realistic decisions when you feel less burdened by worry or fear.
In conclusion, if you have several symptoms of depression, anxiety, or both, you should consider getting professional help and taking practical steps to do something about it-otherwise, this serious mental health issue will only get worse.