A guest blog by Kindred Psychiatrist Dr. Regine Oscuro-Perez
As we celebrate Mental Health Awareness month this October, it is good to see that mental health is a topic that people are now more open to talking about. There is a significant upsurge of mental health seeking behaviors that are associated with increasing awareness and recognition of mental health problems. Despite the positive response regarding mental health, however, there are still those who suffer debilitating symptoms who never got the chance to get the help they need because of multiple reasons such as stigma, lack of awareness on where to get help, poor social support, toxic positivity, financial concerns, and some other personal reasons according to a survey done by the American Psychological Association in 2020.
In recent statistics, about 1 in 4 individuals around the world will develop mental illness in their lifetime. However, women are impacted at a higher rate than men, and are 2-3x more likely to be diagnosed with mental disorders compared to men. There are multiple factors that may put an individual at risk of developing mental illness such as genetic predisposition, prenatal damage, infections, exposure to toxins and brain injuries.
However, there are risk factors that are unique to women specifically, such as gender roles of women designated as “caretakers,” fitting in society’s standard of beauty, balancing motherhood, and having a career, dealing with infertility and perinatal loss, dealing with discrimination and experiencing violence and abuse. These factors combined with the unique individual difficulties and problems in the daily life of each woman puts her at risk of developing mental illness.
Kindred is your partner in your mental health journey. Read on to learn more about some of the most common mental health issues in women:
Depression may be perceived as feeling sad, but even though it is normal to feel sad and down at times, regular sadness usually passes within a few days while depression does not. It can be debilitating to those who experience its symptoms interfering in multiple areas of one’s daily life and may last for a few weeks, months, and even years. Although the experience of having depression may differ for each person, here are depressive symptoms one can observe to know if you are experiencing depression:
- Depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day
- Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities most of the day, nearly everyday
- Changes in weight and appetite
- Problems with sleep
- Fatigue or loss of energy every day
- Feelings of worthlessness or excessive inappropriate guilt
- Diminished ability to think or concentrate
- Thoughts of death or suicidal thoughts
There are also types of depression that are unique to women such as Postpartum Depression and Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder where hormonal change plays a role in symptom development.
Being afraid, nervous, and worried are normal reactions to stress. These can also be helpful in certain situations such as staying alert during challenging situations, studying harder for an exam, or staying focused during a presentation that you are nervous about. In general, it helps us cope. However, if being afraid, nervous, and worried are taken to an extreme, it becomes harder to control –– eventually ruling one’s life, paralyzing, and disabling the person who experiences it and that’s how a person develops an anxiety disorder.
There are different types of anxiety disorders such as generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and specific phobias. A person who may be experiencing an anxiety disorder may have the following symptoms:
- Anxious thought or beliefs
- Feelings of fear and dread
- Restlessness or being on the edge
- Experiencing physical symptoms such as palpitations, hyperventilation, tremors, cold sweats, and muscle tension
- Difficulty concentrating or mind going blank
- Disturbances of sleeping patterns
According to the National Center for PTSD, more than half of all women will be exposed to at least one traumatic event in their lifetime that is linked to a variety of negative mental health consequences including post traumatic stress disorder. Furthermore, research published in 2017 in the European Journal of Psychotraumatology suggests women experience PTSD at 2-3x times the rate that men do. The lifetime prevalence of PTSD for women is 10% to 12%, compared to 5% to 6% for men.
Experiencing trauma and its effects may vary, but here are some symptoms of those who are experiencing a trauma-related disorder:
- Intrusion symptoms such as have distressing memories or nightmares and flashbacks
- Avoidance symptoms such as avoiding memories, thoughts or feelings and external reminders of the traumatic event
- Cognitive and mood symptoms such as having trouble remembering aspects of the traumatic event and having feeling of sadness
- Arousal and reactivity symptoms such as being hyper-vigilant, having exaggerated startle response, and sleep disturbances
Women account for at least 85% of all anorexia and bulimia cases and 65% of binge-eating disorder cases. Social factors play a big role in the development of these disorders. Although self-love and body positivity are now becoming a popular campaign, there is still a weight stigma and trying to fit in the socially-defined “ideal body” that persists in society, and this can lead to another risk factor – bullying. Bullying can lead to low self-esteem, social isolation, and poor body image.
Those who experience symptoms of an eating disorder may observe to have the following:
- Dramatic weight change
- Hiding in layers of clothes
- Preoccupation with weight, food, calories, and dieting
- Excessive, rigid, and extreme exercise regime
- Purging behaviors
- Binge eating
- Feelings of disgust, depression, or guilt
Even though women are at a higher risk of developing these mental illnesses it does not mean one should lose hope. Mental health disorders can be prevented by early intervention and to those already experiencing symptoms and diagnosed with an illness, there are available treatment options such as psychopharmacological and therapeutic interventions that are scientifically proven to be safe and effective to achieving a symptom free life.
Women should never be ashamed or afraid to ask for help because taking charge of your life is a sign of strength and may just be the best decision you can make for yourself. Here at Kindred, we offer a safe space for women to comfortably seek help without the worry of being judged or biased. Book a psychology or psychiatry consultation with us and let us be your partner in your mental health journey!
Use the code MINDMATTERS for 20% OFF Psychology and Psychiatry consults, valid until October 31.
Please note: Although Kindred is able to cater to mental health conditions, urgent cases such as suicidal ideation should be raised to a crisis hotline. We suggest that you contact the following numbers from the National Center For Mental Health: