Gender plays a big role in mental health. Men and women often experience different mental health symptoms, even when diagnosed with the same disorder. Certain mental health issues even affect women more than men. This is due to a number of reasons such as biological factors, cultural influences, and statistically higher rates of sexual abuse and domestic violence for women. If you’re a woman, it’s important you know the gender-specific mental health risks you may face.
Depression is twice as common in women as it is in men. There are a number of factors that contribute to this. Women biologically produce less of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which plays a role in controlling moods, and they also process it more slowly. Female hormone levels also fluctuate more than with males, especially during certain life-periods like menopause.
There are social and cultural factors as well. Women are expected to balance more roles than men, and much of the domestic and child-rearing duties fall upon them. Women are also more likely to seek mental health treatment, thus psychiatrists are more likely to diagnosis women than men. Men and women could realistically experience depression at the same rate, but because of the stereotype that men are meant to be unemotional, the data is skewed.
Women are twice as likely to develop Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), panic disorders, and certain phobias than their male counterparts. Similar to depression, the reasons for this is a mix of biological, socio-cultural, and psychological factors. Fortunately, there are ways to manage anxiety, ranging from medications to natural remedies like breath work, yoga classes, and meditation.
PTSD is more commonly thought of as affecting men, because of its association with military service or with first responders, which have a higher percentage of men in those roles. What many people don’t realize is that women are actually twice as likely to develop PTSD as the result of a traumatic event.
A big, and unfortunate, reason behind this is because rape is the number one precipitating event for PTSD, and nearly 1 in 5 women will experience a sexual assault in their lifetime. Childhood sexual abuse is another major contributor, and a saddening 82% of juvenile sexual abuse victims are young girls.
Although more men die from suicide (roughly four times more often) than women, women actually attempt suicide two to three times more often than men. Data shows that women are more likely to have suicidal thoughts, which isn’t surprising considering they experience depression, anxiety and PTSD at higher rates. However, because most male suicide attempts are more violent and impulsive, the rate of “successful” completion is higher.
Contrary to the myth, men actually do suffer from eating disorders, but not as often as women do. Societal expectations and our cultural definition of what “beauty” looks like puts pressure on girls to have the “perfect” body from a young age. 85% of all anorexia and bulimia cases are women, which should be taken seriously since anorexia and bulimia are particularly deadly mental illnesses.
Being a woman isn’t easy, and many of the factors that make it hard contribute to women developing these mental health issues more than men. Luckily these disorders can be treated. If you or someone you know is suffering from any of these mental health issues please contact a psychiatrist to get them help.