If you are a woman and reading this, it’s a reminder for you to take care of your mental health every single day. Prioritising mental health is important for everyone to promote overall well-being and protect against mental illnesses. However mental illnesses impact men and women differently. For instance, depression is more than twice as prevalent in young women aged between 14-25 years as compared to men according to National Library of Medicine. Not only women are more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety compared to men, there are some illnesses that are specific to women, such as prenatal depression, premenstrual dysphoric disorder, and perimenopause-related sadness. (Also read: 10 easy tips to manage your mental health)
“According to research, women are twice as likely as men to have panic disorder, generalized anxiety, and specific phobias. Following a traumatic event, women are twice as likely as men to develop PTSD.
Overall, women constitute at least 85 per cent of anorexia and bulimia cases and 65 percent of binge-eating disorder cases,” Akanksha Pandey, Consultant Clinical Psychology, Fortis Hospitals, Bannerghatta Road, Bangalore told HT Digital.
Some of the symptoms of mental health issues that are common to men and women are persistent sadness or a sense of helplessness, alcohol or drugs misuse, drastic eating or sleeping patterns alterations, appetite or weight fluctuations, fatigue or a lack of energy, anxiety or excessive fear, hallucinations, extreme emotions, aches, headaches, or stomach issues that have no obvious reason, irritability, withdrawal from social situations and suicidal ideation. (Also read: Losing cool due to summer heat? Here are tips to stay calm)
Causes of mental health issues in women
Hormonal changes in women can impact their mood and increases their probability of getting depression.
“Women produce less serotonin and synthesize it at a slower rate than men, explaining higher rates of depression. A woman’s genetic makeup is also thought to play a role in the development of neurological illnesses. Puberty often causes girls to become dissatisfied with their bodies, which has been linked to depression,” says Pandey.
The expert adds that estrogen on the other hand has been shown to have beneficial effects on the brain, including preventing severe symptoms in women with schizophrenia during certain parts of their menstrual cycles and maintaining the structure of neurons in the brain, aiding in the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease.
Pandey says social and cultural factors too can raise women’s risk of depression. “Women are still the primary caregivers for children, and it is estimated that females provide 80 percent of all caregiving for chronically ill elders, enhancing stress levels,” says the psychologist.
It is also believed that women are more likely than males to report mental health issues and that doctors are more likely to diagnose a woman with depression and treat her with mood-altering medicines.
Tips to improve mental health in women
Learning to deal with life’s ups and downs and developing coping skills that can prevent minor problems from becoming major ones is important. Here are some tip by Pandey:
Exercise regularly: Endorphins, which are chemicals that help relieve stress and promote calmness, are released during aerobic exercise. Regular physical activity also aids in the improvement of sleep habits and quality, as well as the reduction of anxiety and depression symptoms.
Consume a well-balanced diet: People’s moods have been observed to improve when they eat healthful foods and their physical health. Sugary foods should be avoided, while alcohol and coffee must be consumed in moderation to avoid fatigue and irritation. Selenium, omega-3 fatty acids, folate, vitamin B12, calcium, iron, and zinc, among other vitamins and minerals, appear to help with depressive symptoms.
Look for a joyful career: A woman’s mental health concerns are frequently compounded by her job. A new career can provide these women with a revitalized feeling of purpose while also alleviating some of the symptoms of their sickness.
Self-care: A way of living that can help you manage stress, anxiety, and depression symptoms. Apart from fulfilling the most basic requirements, self-care encompasses a wide range of activities like long-overdue chores to learning to say no, scheduling time for joyous activities, rewarding yourself for doing your best, granting yourself permission to be yourself, and, most importantly, allowing yourself to make errors. It’s also critical to understand that self-care is not selfish.
“Women can be more empowered to reclaim the fulfilling, enjoyable, and purposeful lives they so richly deserve if they have access to accurate, up-to-date information on the most effective strategies for overcoming mental health challenges,” concludes the psychologist.