Mental disorders can affect women and men differently. Some disorders are more common in women such as depression and anxiety. In fact, depression is the most common mental health problem for women, and women experience depression at twice the rate of men. There are also certain types of disorders that are unique to women. For example, some women may experience symptoms of mental disorders such as postpartum depression at times of hormone change.
More than 1 in 5 women in the United States experienced a mental health condition in the past year, with depression being the most common condition.
Is it More Than Just Being Tired?
You have just welcomed a new baby into your life, so you couldn’t be happier, right? For some women, that is not the case. Instead, some new mothers experience feelings of sadness and disinterest. Too often, the underlying problem is postpartum depression, but is dismissed as exhaustion. While there is no single cause of postpartum depression, physical and emotional issues play a role.
Physical changes. After childbirth, a dramatic drop in hormones (estrogen and progesterone) in your body may contribute to postpartum depression. Other hormones produced by your thyroid gland also may drop sharply — which can leave you feeling tired, sluggish and depressed.
Emotional issues. When you’re sleep deprived and overwhelmed, you may have trouble handling even minor problems. You may be anxious about your ability to care for a newborn. You may feel less attractive, struggle with your sense of identity or feel that you’ve lost control over your life. Any of these issues can contribute to postpartum depression.
Following the birth of a baby, some women are reluctant or embarrassed to admit that they are depressed or they may be unsure of what they are feeling. If you or your loved one experience any of the following symptoms, call your doctor or ask a family member to schedule an appointment to help you determine if you are dealing with postpartum depression:
- Feelings don’t fade after two weeks
- The way you feel is getting worse
- What is happening is making it hard for you to care for your baby
- What is happening is making it hard to complete everyday tasks
- The way you feel includes thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
Mental Wellbeing and Body Image Connection
A big challenge to women and their mental health, often beginning at a young age, concerns body image – how you think and feel about your body. The media focuses on showing women who are thin and attractive, and often computer technology is used to alter the pictures. As a result, girls and young women often try to reach beauty and body ideals that do not exist in the real world. This can lead to mental and physical health challenges such as anorexia and bulimia. The National Eating Disorders Association offers these helpful ten steps to keep in mind when you think about your body image.
How Do I Know if it’s Mental Illness?
There are many types of mental illness that both men and women face. Figuring out what is considered “normal” mental health can be challenging. Here are some questions and guidelines to consider:
- Is my nervousness becoming a phobia? When does “just feeling sad” become depression?
- If you’re experiencing a change in your thoughts, behaviors, or moods that is interfering with your work or relationships for longer than 2 weeks, you may be experiencing a mental health illness.
- Symptoms of a mental health condition can include extreme anxiety most of the time, feelings of hopelessness about everything, or drug or alcohol abuse.
It’s Okay to Ask for Help
If you are concerned about your own mental wellbeing or that of a loved one, reach out to your doctor or a nurse, a mental health professional, or a trusted loved one for help. There is no shame in seeking help or guidance to determine if you are dealing with a mental illness.
The Employee Assistance Program is a free Pearson benefit that offers five, no cost, face to face or video consultations and unlimited phone sessions. It’s a good starting point for understanding what might be happening and getting your questions answered.
Our Support is Key for Those with Mental Health Disorders
We can all make a difference by Stamping out the Stigma or changing the conversation associated with mental health disorders. Mental health diagnoses are more prevalent than heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, migraines, osteoporosis and asthma. Too often, though, misconception and misinformation have left many people with mental illness afraid to talk about their experiences. Keep an open mind and be educated about mental health so you know the signs and can be a resource.
If you or someone you know is in crisis, get help immediately. You can call 911, the National Suicide Prevention Line at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or Text “BRAVE” to 731731.
Sources: American Cancer Society, Association for Behavioral Health & Wellness, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Centers for Disease Control. World Health Organization, EMPOWER Retirement, Mayo Clinic, National Institute of Mental Health, Willis Towers Watson Wellbeing Ideas for Remote Employees