Women's Mental Health Awareness
Happy October everyone! Let’s talk about women’s mental health awareness month. Specifically, let’s bring awareness to a few mental health issues which affect cisgender women more frequently than cisgender men.
Studies have shown that men and women differ in their tendency to internalize and externalize their emotions. Women tend to internalize their feelings more frequently than men, which leads to more intense feelings of loneliness, anxiety, and withdrawal. On the contrary, men tend to externalize their emotions more frequently. Externalizing our emotions refers to expressing one's feelings outwardly, which may manifest as aggressive, impulsive, coercive, or noncompliant behaviour. Studies also reveal that men are more likely to approach problems with a problem-solving perspective than women, who tend to dwell longer on negative feelings. Studies suggest that these are some of the reasons to why women may experience specific mental health issues more frequently than men.
Now let’s discuss four mental health issues which are more common in women than men.
1. Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
GAD affects both men and women, but it tends to affect women more. According to a study comparing anxiety in men and women, men scored 19.2% for GAD on an anxiety test, whereas women scored 30.5%. GAD issues in women are more disabling than in males and are associated with more missed workdays. The behavioural attribute neuroticism, which is connected to GAD and depression, was also shown to be more prevalent in women than in men. Neuroticism is associated with negative emotions such as poor self-regulation, excessive worrying, and emotional instability.
Generally speaking, women are twice as likely to experience depression than men. In a study major depressive disorder was present in 3.6% of men and 5.0% of women. This is frequently due to women’s tendency to internalize their emotions. However, several other factors may also cause the high rate. Women go through several physiological changes during their lives that compromise with their hormone balance. Hormonal fluctuations have been shown to trigger depression. Physiological changes that can cause this include premenstrual dysphoric disorder, postpartum depression, and postmenopausal depression. These are just a few of the explanations for why depression may affect women more frequently than men.
Compared to men, women are two to three times more likely to develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Research shows that women with PTSD experience more chronic PTSD and different symptoms than men. Women and men may be exposed to different types of traumas, which is most likely the cause of the discrepancy. Women experience various forms of sexual assault more frequently. To be specific, 1 in 3 women will experience sexual assault in their lifetime, which increases the likelihood for them to develop PTSD.
4. Eating Disorder
Eating disorders are more prevalent in women than in men. This is likely due to the high standards and societal expectations of what it means to be considered an "attractive woman", which often times gets internalized by women. It was seen that female participants felt substantially higher levels of anger and fear while viewing a virtual version of themselves looking obese and excessively thin in a research study. It was concluded that women experience more negative emotions surrounding the topic of body image compared to men.
In an attempt to educate people and reduce stigma surrounding mental health, we aim to raise awareness of the challenges that many women experience around the world. We recognize that living with a mental illness is no walk in a park, so we want to make it known that we are here to help you. Do not hesitate to contact us to book an appointment as our team of clinicians are highly professional and skilled. We also offer Reduced Fee Therapy to make support more affordable.
American Psychological Association. (2011, August 18). Study finds sex differences in mental illness [Press release]. https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2011/08/mental-illness
Albert P. R. (2015). Why is depression more prevalent in women? Journal of psychiatry & neuroscience: JPN, 40(4), 219–221. https://doi.org/10.1503/jpn.150205
Fang, R. (2020, May 1). Prevalence of eating disorders in men versus women. An Ecological Approach to Obesity and Eating Disorders. Retrieved September 26, 2022, from https://opentextbooks.clemson.edu/hlth4150spring2020/chapter/prevalence-of-eating-disorders-in-men-vs-women/
Pesce, L., van Veen, T., Carlier, I., van Noorden, M. S., van der Wee, N. J., van Hemert, A. M., & Giltay, E. J. (2016). Gender differences in outpatients with anxiety disorders: the Leiden Routine Outcome Monitoring Study. Epidemiology and psychiatric sciences, 25(3), 278–287. https://doi.org/10.1017/S2045796015000414
Pooley, A. E., Benjamin, R. C., Sreedhar, S., Eagle, A. L., Robison, A. J., Mazei-Robison, M. S., Breedlove, S. M., & Jordan, C. L. (2018). Sex differences in the traumatic stress response: PTSD symptoms in women recapitulated in female rats. Biology of sex differences, 9(1), 31. https://doi.org/10.1186/s13293-018-0191-9
PTSD: National Center for PTSD. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (2018, September 18). Retrieved September 26, 2022, from https://www.ptsd.va.gov/understand/common/common_women.asp
Widiger, T. A., & Oltmanns, J. R. (2017). Neuroticism is a fundamental domain of personality with enormous public health implications. World psychiatry: official journal of the World Psychiatric Association (WPA), 16(2), 144–145. https://doi.org/10.1002/wps.20411