Tag Archives: women’s mental heath

On Thriving: How to be a woman in difficult times

The list of challenges affecting women is long. For one, women are more prone to certain diagnoses. They are twice as likely as men to experience depression, generalized anxiety disorder, and PTSD, and much more likely to battle body dysmorphia and eating disorders. Pay inequity, caregiving responsibilities, and gender-based violence are among the contributing risk factors to common mental health conditions. Infertility, menopause, and postpartum depression also affect many. Women are vastly underrepresented in psychology research and medical research in general.  Even our empirical data is not truly representative of women’s actual needs and outcomes.

Physical and emotional caregiving roles — as daughters, mothers, partners, colleagues, and leaders can result in heavier burdens. Then there’s being underrepresented in upper level leadership at work, navigating status as a woman of color or member of the LGBTQ+ community, enduring sexual harassment, dealing with imposter syndrome, juggling parental leave (women still do the vast majority of housekeeping and child care, And this has only increased since the pandemic), and maintain the preponderance of emotional caretaking roles in pretty much all domains. Many of these challenges are often largely invisible, since women may be reluctant to discuss them at all, much less at work or even with family. Many women may not be inclined to “other” themselves further by disclosing a mental health challenge.

Black and brown women in particular are hesitant to seek mental health services, in part due to stigma, lack of resources, lack of cultural competency or training within the mental health profession, and the superwoman syndrome.

The term ego-syntonic refers to a mental state that just feels normative. The Superwoman with the Cape is an everyday reality for many women.  However, it is not sustainable.  Also see Take Off the Cape.

How to untangle:

Reflect on your needs.

  • First, think through the nature of your mental health and your specific vulnerabilities or challenges. Is it chronic, episodic, or a one-time event?
  • Consider the contributing factors. Are they work-related or limited to your personal life? Is there a gender-specific component, like childcare or workplace discrimination, that might make you more reluctant to discuss the problem at work? -Be clear about the effects. Is your mental health challenge affecting your work performance, family and friendships, your personal health?

Talk with a friend, family member, or therapist about your concerns.

  • Try to brainstorm the potential asks that you could make at work to support yourself.
  • You may also want to get advice from a women’s circle or ask female friends to recommend therapists, books, or podcasts that focus on gender.
  • Consider whether seeking out the mental health benefits and other resources your employer provides (such as healthcare coverage to see a therapist or psychiatrist) is sufficient or if you need an accommodation (such as starting your workday later, having regular meetings with your team to breakdown tasks, or having extended deadlines for major projects).
    It may help to educate yourself about the legal protections available to you. Under ADA law, if you are undergoing treatment with a licensed doctor/mental health professional, your treatment and requested accommodations cannot be used against you, especially in a company with 15 or more employees.

Find allies and safe spaces.

  • Given the stigma often associated with mental health concerns or challenges, finding a safe space to tell your story and receive support from allies is a critical step. Simply realizing that you’re not alone can go a long way, especially when you may be feeling othered because of your gender. Peer support is a powerful lever to reduce stigma.
  • Even outside of work, allies can teach us empathy and resilience, can spur creativity, and can fuel our goals and ambition. Having friends who provide emotional support and vice versa is highly affiliated with mental health.

For more info see Depression, Women and Heart Health.

Mental health and Women’s History Month

Historically, one in five American women experience a major mental illness at any given time. Women tend to experience mental illness slightly differently than men. Specifically, women are more prone to what are known as internalizing mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety, while men are more prone to externalizing mental illnesses such as drug abuse, alcoholism, and antisocial behaviors. An internalizing mental illness is one which causes a person to turn inward. It often leads to withdrawal, ruminating, loneliness, and feelings of sadness. Women who find themselves retreating from life and internalizing their emotions may be experiencing major depression or an anxiety disorder.

Women also tend to experience more physical symptoms in the context of mental illness than men. Headaches, stomachaches, chronic pain, and high blood pressure can all be symptoms of mental illness. Other physical signs include sleep difficulties, weight fluctuations, lack of energy, or a low sex drive. Physical symptoms should always be checked out by a medical doctor. But, once a medical diagnosis is ruled out, women who experience unexplained physical symptoms may consider the possibility of an undiagnosed mental illness.

Risk Factors for Mental Health Problems in Women
Women disproportionately experience some of the following risk factors for common mental disorders than men.

  • Women earn less than men. Women who are full time workers earn about one-fourth less than male counterparts in a given year.
  • The poverty rate for women aged 18 to 64 is 14.2% compared with 10.5% for men. For women aged 65 and older the poverty rate is 10.3%, while the poverty rate for men aged 65 and older is 7.0%.1
  • Victims of violence: About 1 in 3 women have experienced sexual violence, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime.
  • An estimated 65% of caregivers are women. Female caregivers may spend as much as 50% more time providing care than male caregivers.
  • Women have significant barriers to receiving mental health care, including economic barriers, lack of time or a support system, and stigmatization.

General Signs of Mental Illness
Difficulty functioning in life
Sometimes the first signs of mental illness are seen in decreased functioning. This might appear as bad grades, poor work performance, failing to following through on responsibilities, difficulty coping with stress, or problems in personal relationships.

Changes in mood and emotion
Unexplained or uncharacteristic changes or fluctuations in mood are another primary sign of many mental illnesses. This might be displayed as a depressed mood, feelings of euphoria, excessive energy, lack of emotion, or feelings of apathy. Alternatively, a person might experience excessive guilt, fear, shame, irritability, or anger.

Cognitive deficiencies
These can include memory problems, difficulty concentrating, or spells of confusion. Any troubling cognitive symptoms of this nature should be assessed for a possible mental illness.
Risky or uncharacteristic behaviors.

Mental illness sometimes leads to risky behaviors such as spending exorbitant amounts of money, engaging in risky sexual behaviors, or experimenting with drugs and alcohol. Sometimes a dual diagnosis is present, in which a person experiences an addiction to drugs or alcohol in addition to a diagnosis such as depression or PTSD.

Breaks with reality
Breaks with reality are found in psychotic disorders and severe depression. These might manifest in the form of delusions, hallucinations, paranoia, or a sense of detachment from the world.
Statistics: American Psychiatric Association. “Best Practice Highlights Female Patients.

Global Women’s Mental Health Summit

Hoorie Siddique, PhD is honored to speak at the (virtual) annual Global Women’s Mental Health Summit, January  25-31.

Across the world, women are overrepresented with regard to the preponderance of anxiety disorders and major depression. However, women may also place mental health care as a lower priority among their many responsibilities. Researchers, physicians, clinical psychologists, and neuroscientists are participating in this important discussion.

Please sign up if you get a chance: https://www.purvitantia.com/gms

Embolden Psychology

Embolden offers the ADOS-2, the gold standard assessment for kids on the spectrum.

Combined with psychoeducational testing, it helps provide comprehensive information and recommendations to help children and teens six and up.

Thank you for contacting us.