Mental wellness is not just about being free from mental illnesses. It involves your emotional, psychological, and social well-being and can affect your thoughts, feelings, and quality of life. Your mental health can also determine how you manage stress, interact with other people, and make choices in your life every day.
However, mental health is not exactly a fixed state because it could fluctuate throughout your life due to factors like genetics, environment, lifestyle, and personal experiences. As such, it is best to recognize and address mental health issues early on, as untreated mental health problems can lead to more severe conditions and negatively impact your life.
Women’s Mental Health Risks
While both genders can experience mental health disorders, mental health illnesses may be more prevalent in women, and their symptoms may differ. Certain mental health conditions, like depression and bipolar disorder, are also more likely to affect women more than men or impact them differently.
In the United States, over 20% of women have experienced mental health issues such as depression or anxiety in the past year. A common cause for this is the unique stressors that women experience, such as societal expectations on gender roles or different forms of gender-based violence, which can increase the prevalence of post-traumatic stress, anxiety, and depressive disorders.
Women also tend to internalize their emotions more often, resulting in sadness, anxiety, eating disorders, and even self-harm. Aside from these, there are also biological factors like hormonal fluctuations, including those experienced during menstrual cycles, pregnancy, and menopause.
People who are suffering from mental health issues may undergo prolonged sadness, emptiness, irritability, or hopelessness. They may also notice significant changes in appetite, weight, or sleep patterns, as well as persistent tiredness, lethargy, and excessive worry or anxiety.
In some cases, there may be extreme mood swings, hallucinations, social withdrawal, or attempts at suicide or self-harm. These symptoms can vary between individuals and manifest differently in men and women.
Impact Of Mental Health Issues On Women
The pandemic has significantly altered the lives of individuals globally, with women experiencing particularly unique challenges. For one, many women have been forced out of the workforce due to lockdown measures. On the other hand, those who have retained their jobs had struggled to balance remote work and family responsibilities during economic instability, scarce childcare options, and unpredictable school arrangements.
A survey of 1,000 US adults revealed that roughly two-thirds of women reported increased stress or anxiety during the pandemic, with 23% indicating that the increase was substantial. Of those affected, about a third of women mentioned that their increased stress or anxiety led to poorer eating and exercise habits, while only 22% of men reported experiencing the same changes.
Severe mental illness also tends to be more prevalent among females than males. Sadly, women with severe conditions are frequently underrepresented in psychiatric research, receive less effective treatment with psychiatric medications, and encounter discrimination and stigma from medical professionals responsible for their diagnosis and care.
How To Address Women’s Mental Health Issues
Women have faced various challenges in managing their mental health over the years, leading to overdiagnosis and underdiagnosis of their mental health concerns. Fortunately, there are now mental health professionals who are experienced in working with female patients.
If you see or experience any symptoms of mental health illness, it is best to undergo treatments specially designed for females, like the women’s intensive outpatient program. They are experts in managing cases specific to women and can recommend the best treatment plan for your condition.
Additionally, there are some things that you can do to take better care of your mental health. First is to let go of unrealistic social and personal expectations because these will only make you feel burdened, frustrated, and disappointed with yourself and the people around you.
Next is to acknowledge that even your negative feelings are valid because emotional validation and support are essential for promoting mental well-being regardless of gender. Like everyone else, you should be allowed to express a full range of emotions without being criticized, judged, or made to feel guilty about it.
After you recognize the emotions you are experiencing and allow yourself to feel them, make a conscious decision to let go of resentment and choose to forgive. Remember that everyone makes mistakes, and it’s important to extend forgiveness, even to yourself, using the experience as an opportunity for personal growth and self-improvement.
Don’t forget to schedule regular phone calls, video chats, and social media platforms to keep in touch with loved ones, share updates, and engage in conversations. You can also organize virtual game nights, movie nights, or other group activities to share laughs and create new memories together.
Lastly, give yourself time to breathe. Take short breaks during the day when you can, even if it’s just to stand up, stretch your arms, and walk around the room for a few minutes. When you can, spend more time outdoors or go on a long vacation to give your mental health a boost.