Mental health is defined by the National Library of Medicine as “how we think, feel and act as we cope with life. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others and make choices.” While generally speaking, women and men are equally likely to develop a mental illness, there are a few specific disorders that impact women at a greater rate than they do men. For example, women are almost twice as likely to develop an anxiety disorder or depression than their male counterparts. Eating disorders and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are also more common in women than men.
Women and Depression
As far as women’s mental health issues go, depression is the most common. One in four women will seek treatment for depression as compared to one in ten men. While researchers cannot pinpoint the exact reasons behind why depression is so much more prevalent in women, they attribute biological factors like hormonal changes in addition to societal factors as being partly to blame. Women also experience a specific kind of depression that men simply cannot as they are not biologically wired to do so. This is postpartum depression, a mental health issue that affects up to 15 percent of women after they’ve given birth.
The Different Ways Anxiety Can Impact Your Mental Health
Just like depression, women are also two times as likely to experience an anxiety disorder than men. Five specific anxiety disorders that affect women more than men are outlined below and defined by the National Institute of Mental Health:
- General Anxiety Disorder- Characterized by chronic anxiety, exaggerated worry and tension even when there is little or nothing to worry about.
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder- Characterized by unreasonable thoughts and fears (obsessions) that lead you to do repetitive behaviors (compulsions).
- Panic Disorder- Characterized by repeated attacks of intense fear that something bad will occur when not expected.
- Phobias- Characterized by a strong, irrational fear of something that poses little or no actual danger.
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder- A potentially debilitating mental health disorder triggered by exposure to a traumatic experience such as an interpersonal event like physical or sexual assault, exposure to disaster or accidents, combat or witnessing a traumatic event.
PTSD is a tricky one that individuals often incorrectly assume that more men would develop than women due to the vast number of soldiers that came back from combat and suffered from it. However, research has demonstrated a direct link between domestic (spousal abuse, child abuse) and sexual assault and PTSD and one in three women in the United States will fall victim to such abuse and therefore be at a significantly greater risk for developing the mental health disorder.
Destination Hope: The Women’s Program is a Joint Commission accredited drug, alcohol and dual diagnosis treatment center for women with substance abuse issues in South Florida. A major risk factor for developing a substance abuse problem is an undiagnosed or untreated mental health disorder. If there’s a woman in your life who has started to abuse drugs or alcohol to cope with a mental illness, please put her in contact with the kind folks at Destination Hope immediately. Our counselors are available 24 hours a day. Drugs and alcohol are never the answer. We can show her the light.