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Understanding Mental Illness in Women

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Mental illness in women is something that used to be a taboo topic a few decades ago.  Today, we know that mental illness affects men and women throughout the world.  We know that mental illness affects people differently and that like other health conditions, men and women have different risks, symptoms, and even different treatments. For example, while it is possible for men to develop breast cancer, the disease is exponentially higher among women.  This is the same for mental illness.  While men are at higher risk for certain mental illnesses, women are more likely to develop depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder.

When it comes to statistics, studies show that women are twice as likely to suffer from depression as men, and are also at increased risk of developing phobias and eating disorders, attempting suicide and experiencing PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder, following a traumatic event. Furthermore, men and women with identical mental health diagnoses often experience different symptoms and respond differently to treatment.

Theories Related to Gender and Mental Illness

The reason behind the prevalence of certain types of mental illness among women can be the chemical composition of a woman’s body. Hormones can play a large role in mental illness among women, especially those experiencing hormonal fluctuations due to puberty, pregnancy, or menopause. These fluctuations can wreak havoc on both the body and mind, causing symptoms like hot flashes, depression, anger, and anxiety.

Another theory is that higher rates of mental health conditions among women is a sociological issue rather than a biological problem. This theory points to statistics that show that while men may suffer from psychological and emotional disorders, they are less likely than women to report their symptoms or seek treatment. Sociological factors also include the idea that women are more apt to internalize their problems while men display symptoms in their outward behaviors. This internalization can often intensify mental health issues, as well as lead to other potentially harmful symptoms.

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Treatment and Prevention of Mental Illness in Women

Since women are more apt than men to suffer from certain types of mental illnesses, and experience different symptoms and causes, there are women-specific treatment programs. Female-specific treatment can include a variety of therapies and medications, but it is important to note that each woman is different.  Treating mental illness may feel like a trial-and-error process to the patient.  Due to differing symptoms, experiences and biological aspects, treatment methods that work in one individual may not be effective in another. Effective mental health treatment also often involves using multiple treatments simultaneously. For example, medications are often administered in conjunction with counseling and other types of talk therapy.

Every woman should be educated on mental illness and the symptoms of these diseases to better equip themselves to handle these disorders when they arise and seek help.  Mental illness is a treatable medical condition and many women who recognize the symptoms and seek help are able to live normal, happy, and productive lives.

If you or a woman you love is in need of help for a mental illness, such as depression, anxiety or an eating disorder, please call us today. We have a women’s program designed to treat the unique needs of women who suffer from substance abuse and mental health disorders that can help women achieve a happy, healthy future. Destination Hope: The Women’s Program is a full service alcohol abuse, drug addiction, and women’s health treatment facility in Florida for women who suffer from substance abuse and co-occurring disorders.

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