Over 29 million American women (that is just about 23% of the female population) have been diagnosed with a mental health disorder in the last year alone. And that’s only the reported cases. It’s estimated that millions more go untreated and unreported. From anxiety to depression to everything in between, being a women means we need to be keeping an eye on our mental well-being.
Men vs. Women: Disorders
Autism, alcoholism, antisocial personality disorders and early onset of schizophrenia affect higher rates in men then in women, but women have a host of mental disorders that they rate higher in and they include:
Anxiety: Women have two times the chance of developing a panic disorder, general anxiety or specific phobias.
Depression: Women are more than twice as likely to develop depression then men are.
Eating Disorders: 85% of anorexia and bulimia cases are from women while 65% of binge eating cases are from them as well.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): Women are two times more likely to develop PTSD then men following a traumatic event.
Suicide Attempts: While more men die from suicide, more women than men attempt to commit suicide.
Men vs. Women: Symptoms
Even when the same mental health diagnosis is made for a man that a women has, the symptoms that they experience are different. This makes the treatment plans different as well. As an example, a man who is suffering from depression may find himself having problems at work because of his lack of communication and enthusiasm while a woman will have physical symptoms such as tiredness, lack of appetite and insomnia.
For those with schizophrenia, men are likely to become more anti-social while women most often experience thought impairment, mood swings and depression. But women respond faster to antipsychotic medication then men do, requiring less personal care.
Men vs. Women: Why the Difference?
Why are women’s brains and bodies so different from men’s that they respond in such a different manner to mental illnesses? There are numerous reasons why and we’ll explore the most common now.
Hormones: The hormones in the female body are known to play a large role in mood and depression. The hormonal fluctuations can have effects on the brain and on the body, causing mood swings, fatigue, sleep disturbances and more. Women produce less of serotonin, a mood stabilizer, making them more susceptible to depression and mental disorders.
Equality: Although great strides have been made in gender equality, women still face numerous challenges when it comes to being equal in status, position and dependence. They are the primary caregivers of both children and elders, adding stress to their lives. Women are also more dissatisfied with their bodies and one in five women will experience some type of sexual abuse (rape, molestation or attempts) which can all lead to anxiety disorders and depression.
Behavior: Women have been shown to report mental health issues more often than men. Doctors are more apt to diagnose women with a mental health disorder and to treat the disorder with mood altering drugs. Men tend to report their issues to a mental health specialist, if they report them at all.
Men vs. Women: Research
It has only been recent that studies have shown the distinctions between men and women and their mental health disorders. Many organizations, such as the National Institutes of Health, are responding to the need for research specific to women, as are many private organizations.
Researchers at the Women’s Health Research Center of Yale University are looking at the different ways that women’s brains develop verses how men’s develop. They hope to gain insight into treating and even preventing disorders such as bipolar. They are also studying the mood processes of women, then effects of estrogen on behavior, emotions and memory and how, if at all, genetics play a part in mental disorders in women.
There is a greater understanding of women’s mental health disorders and how it affects them differently than men. Experts are hopeful that new research will bring better treatment plans and prevention plans in to place for women who experience mental health disorders.