Women and the Stigma of Mental Health Issues.

The issue of women’s mental health problems and the stigma that comes with it has raised concerns in the recent years.

Mental health issues impact both men and women. However, according to the American Psycology Association, “Women are more likely to be diagnosed with anxiety or depression, while men tend toward substance abuse or antisocial disorders.”

Mental health issues amongst women do not come about because of a single factor but usually as a result of a mixture of biological factors (women do not develop serotonin as much as men do and their bodies process it slower) and socio-cultural influences, which includes workplace inequality, body shaming, and the pressure to "have everything". Women have higher chances of experiencing sexual abuse, rape, domestic violence, and attempted rape in their lifetime, which is also a cause of mental issues in women.

Biological Factors Play a Crucial Role in Mental Illness in Women

This is, in fact, a critical element in women's mental health and possible development of mental health disorders. As stated earlier, women do not have as much serotonin as men and they also process the chemical at slower rates and this can contribute to fluctuations in their mood. Serotonin plays a big role in maintaining mood balance and social behavior (www.MedicatNewsToday.com), so it is understandable that the female biological makeup impacts women’s mental health. This, coupled with being predisposed to more hormonal changes than men, can prove key to the development of certain mental health issues.

Aside from the biological difference, women are also generally affected by sociocultural influences and beliefs. 

Sociocultural Influences on Mental Health

Women as the Lesser Sex

Culturally speaking, women have been seen as the lesser gender, placing them in roles as the primary caregivers to children and the elderly, with little or no regard to achieving more. Even though there has been a shift in gender equality in our culture, with women choosing to have both careers and families there remains a big amount of stress placed on women's shoulders. 

This stress alone can lead to depression and panic attacks.

Sexualization of Women

In every part of the world, women have been the object of sexualization, either through magazines, social media, movies, television shows, music or relationships. This joint adverse sexualization can lead to problems with the healthy development of self-esteem and self-image among women, according to the American Psychological Association. These factors mentioned can not only lead to unhealthy self-image but also shame, anxiety, depression, and stress.

Also to women being seen as sex objects, violence and sexual abuse are two other important factors that contribute to mental health issues in women.  According to a U.S survey report by National Center for Injury Prevention and Control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in five women is a victim of rape or attempted rape, and women also have a higher instance of sexual abuse experience.

Stigmatization and Women’s Mental Health

Individuals with mental disorders have been discriminated against and stigmatized all over the world throughout history. Furthermore, research revealed that patients with mental health problems were treated with fear, dislike, and distrust more than virtually any other individuals.

Women who are living with mental disorders and addictions experience the stigma associated with it differently than men. 

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An analysis done by the British Columbia Centre of Excellence for Women’s Health of media discourses and policy responses to these women reported highly negative attitudes that reflect the perception that the affected women deliberately create their difficult predicaments.

Mental Illnesses That Commonly Affect Women

Although mental illnesses affect men and women alike, some affect women most. These diseases include depression, panic disorder, and eating disorders. 

  • Depression

Depression is a feeling of overwhelming sadness or melancholy, which can be episodic (bouts of depression that last for days, weeks or longer) or chronic (depression that is persistent). 

The symptoms of depression can also include losing interest in daily activities, changes in appetite, and a sense of worthlessness. 

  • Panic Disorder

Types of panic disorders are general anxiety disorder (GAD), phobias, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and social anxiety. Of all of these types, GAD and specific phobias affect women more. 

Panic disorders can develop as a result of or in addition to other illnesses such as depression and drug addiction. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) results from a grave and tragic event. It can affect anyone, but women are twice as likely to develop it. 

Just because women are often the victims of sexual or physical violence, this illness can dramatically alter how women see the world and themselves. Sexual violence primarily impacts the onset of post-traumatic stress disorder among women.

  • Eating Disorder

Factors that contribute to eating disorders are the sociocultural aspects mentioned above. 

The sexualization of women can foster the development of negative self-image as well as negative body image issues and very low self-esteem. Weight has, and is likely always to be, an aspect of women’s lives which is scrutinized and always an issue, so it is not confusing why women feel such pressure to be physically perfect. 

While eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa often develop during the teenage years, the onset of such disorders can occur anytime. Of the individuals affected by eating disorders, Everyday Health reports that women account for 85 percent of bulimia and anorexia cases and approximately 65 percent of binge eating disorders.

Counseling and Therapy for Women's Mental Health

Professional therapy and counseling are excellent treatments, which can help improve your mental health. These treatments are suitable for women who are experiencing emotional or behavior problems. Also, it can help women who have a mental health disorder. Therapy is sometimes referred to as psychotherapy or talk therapy. Most times, therapy is used in combination with medicines for mental health disorder. Therapy usually improves the results you get from using the medicine.

Do not let shame and fear keep you from getting the help you need. Good mental health is a part of your overall health and wellness. Counseling allows you to talk about your problems and feelings in a confidential and dependable environment. A counselor is already trained to listen with empathy (by putting himself or herself in your shoes) and can help you deal with any negative thoughts and feelings that you have.

Medications and Meditation for Women's Mental Health

Meditation is also another approach to treating mental disorders.  Drugs such as antidepressants are usually prescribed to those who have mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, pain, and insomnia. However, meditating changes the brain, and with it, the way the individual’s body responds to stress. Which works wonders on depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Meditation can even replace medication for some people.

Still have questions about the stigma of Mental Health Issues especially for women? We would love to help! Visit one of our three locations in Southcenter, Seattle, or Mountlake Terrace, or contact us online. http://www.mindfultherapygroup.com/contact/