Women can experience an array of issues related to their gender. Woman’s issues refer to any type of problem that can impact their daily mental health. There are more than 29 million women in America that deal with mental health issues. These can range from being biological including hormonal, psychological, psychosocial to a mix of all. These types of problems that can be addressed with the help of a mental health counselor. It is important to remember not to try to define their problems in a vacuum nor to stereotype them. Each individual has their own needs and treatment should be catered to that need.
What are Women’s Issues?
There is an array of different mental health issues that woman may face throughout their lifespan. While each individual is different, there are some that appear more frequently.
Over the years I have seen many women who deal with fears about not being good enough, being overly nervous, stressed or in a constant state of panic. We all experience feelings of anxiety in our lives, but for some these types of feelings remain a constant and can actually hinder women to live their lives to the fullest. It really becomes an anxiety disorder when the amount spent in this heightened stressful state interfers with daily tasks and living. The most common symptoms of anxiety is having trouble sleeping, breathing too fast or difficulty breathing, feeling like their heart is racing, ruminating about past events and constantly feeling nervous.
Depression affects more than 10% of women in America. It is one of the most prevalent mood disorders that spans across all genders. Depression can affect both mind and body. Many women feel a sense of hopeless, a lack of motivation, sleeping issues, isolation, irritability and a sense of sadness, that disables them to such an extent, that they become dysfunctional. The tough part, especially with women, is trying to distinguish whether this has to do with their thought process or it really has something to do with a hormone imbalance. Some women experience this after pregnancy-also called postpartum depression.
Women are more likely to suffer from hormonal changes throughout their life that men. These can start at puberty, during every cycle, at pregnancy or after (post-partum), and menopause. The psychological and physical changes in your body can lead women to experience sadness, mood swings, depression, anxiety etc.. some are lucky and experience very small changes while others suffer to such an extent that they need psychotropic medication.
Is a type of clinical depression that can occur right after or a few months after childbirth. This type of depression varies greatly. Most of the times-hormonal changes trigger symptoms. During pregnancy, female hormones such as estrogen and progesterone are the highest they will ever be in your body. The first day after childbirth, these hormone levels quickly adjust back to the normal level, pre-pregnancy. Researchers believe that this sudden change in hormone levels is what causes this type of depression. Other issues may be fatigue after giving birth, the feeling of being overwhelmed with a new baby, lack of help, feeling bloated and less attractive, feelings of loss of their older self, weight gain, stress of being a parent etc… Unfortunately, postpartum depression can have serious effects on the baby, so it is important to seek help if you feel any of these symptoms.
Infertility is a problem that can be seen across all cultures and society. According to research about 5-10% of couples are affected by this. This number continues to rise as women are postponing having children at a younger age. While the main reasons for being infertile are usual physiological, the resulting despair-often exacerbated by the physical and emotional ups and downs of infertility treatment-may exert a huge psychological toll. Women more often than men, have feelings of despair, guilt, hopelessness and emotional trauma associated with the fact of not being able to conceive.
There are our major DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder 5) recognized eating disorders. These include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge-eating disorder and avoidant restrictive food intake disorder. Although these can affect anyone, they are most commonly diagnosed in women. According to research approximately 20 million American woman will have had at least one of these four disorders in their life. Eating disorders are not directly about food, but are the symptom of deep underlying issues. These include lack of self-esteem, lack of self-worth, obsessive thoughts, anxiety, depression and unresolved issues from childhood.
Bipolar II disorder:
This is a psychiatric disorder that manifests itself different depending on the gender. Onset is usually later in life and unfortunately due to the frequent depressive episodes, it is often misdiagnosed with depressive disorder. This disorder is characterized by intense mood swings that range from high (mania) and low (depression).Hormones can affect this disorder in women more than in men. Mood swings are normal for everyone, but what makes these so devastating is that they often interfere with daily functioning and can disable a person to do simple task.
This may be physical, sexual, and/or psychological abuse between two people who live together or are in a relationship together. Most reported cases of domestic violence are women, although it can happen with men too. Unfortunately, they are often unreported to due stigma. More than 1 in 4 women in the United States experience some type of physical violence from their partner. The most common ways that domestic violence presents itself is through name-calling, violence and psychological manipulation. Women in such relationships often have a history of other abusive relationships, have a low self-esteem, feel alone and often feel that they have no other option but to stay. Some even think that it is their fault their partner treats them this way.
Sexual assault or abuse is any type of sexual activity that is not agreed upon prior. This can range from touching, sexual intercourse, rape, attempted rape, vaginal, oral or anal penetration to child molestation, really anything that forces a person to be part of an unwanted sexual contact or attention. Unfortunately, women are by far more victimized than men. Often times they blame themselves, believing that they were at fault; for dressing a certain way, drinking too much, behavior a certain way.. etc… This can lead women to be depression, anxious, feel uncomfortable in new situation or new relationships, have sexual desire disorders and can suffer from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It is important to see professional help with someone that understands how traumatic this can be but also how shameful women feel after something like this has happened to them.
Borderline Personality Disorder:
This is a mental health disorder that is characterized by unstable moods, irrational behavior and unstable relationships. A higher proportion of women suffer from this personality disorder than men. People who suffer from this type of disorder have a big fear of abandonment yet their impuslivity, frequent mood swings may actually push others away.
Why Seek Therapy for Women’s Issues?
Many of these issues can be very overwhelming and can affect women in their personal life as well as in their careers. Finding someone that they can talk to and help them come to terms with their individual issues can help them overcome certain obstacles and improve their overall well being.
Treatment Options for Women
There are many different ways the above problems can be treated. Treatment options depend on the extent that the conditions affects the person’s life. It also depends on their coping skills, and if they have friends or family that is supportive. Some options maybe used in combination to have a better effect.
Psychotherapy– This type of therapy, often known as talk therapy or counseling is often very effective in helping women understand their underlying issues and give them tools to manage these. This type of therapy might often be combined with a type of group therapy, where women can learn about themselves by relating with others with the same problem. There are many types of therapy modalities, each therapist has a particular speciality. It is important to do your homework and ask the questions you need, when setting up your appointment.
Medication– Psychiatric medication is only prescribed by a psychiatrist. There are particular mental health disorder that can benefit from medication and therapy combined. Women who suffer from bipolar disorder, extreme anxiety or depression can, in some cases, really benefit from psychotropic medication. These include anti-depressants, anti-anxiety medication, mood stabilizers, antipsychotics, sleeping pills etc.. Your psychiatrist will be able to assess if this is indeed needed or if therapy on its own will help alleviate your symtpoms.
Meditation, Yoga, Mindfullness
Alternatively, some women tend to combine counseling along with other holistic approaches to help them feel better. Meditation is very useful, especially to those, that suffer from anxiety and depression. Yoga, helps to keep the body in motion, while the mind takes a bit of a rest, a type of exercises that has multiple benefits. Lastly, mindfulness, is really a state of being. You learn this through doing both meditation and yoga or your therapy sessions might be approached with this type of lens. According to Ryt (2004) “Daily yoga and vigorous exercise will activate and stimulate the glandular system to trigger the body’s natural ability to find balance during hormonal fluctuations; yoga exercises release tension, massage and support the liver, and work the whole body”
There are many way in which women really ‘got the short end of the stick’ and tend to be more prone to certain mental health conditions than men. That being said women are also more likely to seek help from a therapist if they need help and therefore are more likely to feel better sooner. Therapy should not be seen as a last resort but as a preventative. If you are new to therapy, there are things you can do to find the right therapist. Additionally, many women facing these or any other type of emotional issues, may benefit from online resources that will help them find tools and new strategies to help them cope and find new perspective on things.
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Sansone, R. A., & Sansone, L. A. (2011). Gender patterns in borderline personality disorder. Innovations in clinical neuroscience, 8(5), 16–20.
RYT, H. K. K. (2004). How yoga, meditation, and a yogic lifestyle can help women meet the challenges of perimenopause and menopause. Sexuality, Reproduction and Menopause, 2(3), 169-175.