Mental health problems are more common in women than in men. The issues can play a significant role in the overall health. Some of the common problems are depression, anxiety, panic attacks etc. There are several reasons behind this. It can be due to genetics, family history and environment. Though men also suffer from certain mental health issues, they are more associated with early onset of schizophrenia, high rates of autism, alcoholism and antisocial personality disorder. Some of the common types of mental health disorders among women are given below.
Only about 6 percent of men are believed to get depression when compared to 12 percent among women. So the number of women who are likely to get depression is double when compared to men.
2. Anxiety and some specific phobias
Both men and women are affected by such mental disorders like social phobias and obsessive-compulsive disorder. However, the number of women who are likely to suffer from disorders like anxiety, specific phobias and panic attacks is again double as against their male counterparts.
3. PSTD or post traumatic stress syndrome
In this type of disorder also, the number of women patients are more than that of men.
4. Suicide attempts
The rate of men who die by suicide is four times the number of women. However, the number of women attempting suicide is more than men.
5. Eating disorders
About 85 percent of the bulimia and anorexia cases are associated with women and about 65 percent of disorders due to binge eating are also associated with women.
Symptoms and treatment
Though men and women share the same diagnosis, the symptoms and treatment followed are different for men and women. For example, a man may be depressed due to some job-related issues while a woman can be depressed due to other reasons like appetite, fatigue and loss of sleep etc. When compared to men, women are more likely to suffer from various problems due to alcohol abuse within a short period of developing depression. Women use emotional and religious outlets to find relief from the symptoms when compared to men who find relief by engaging themselves in other activities like sports and hobbies.
Women who suffer from schizophrenia experience thought impairment and depression. Men who suffer from schizophrenia most often become socially isolated and apathetic. It is women who quickly respond to anti-psychotic medication and require less personal care. Such women often report about mood symptoms which may interfere in the diagnostic process. They may require mood stabilizers apart from the anti-psychotic medications.
Mental health and gender difference
What causes the differences in the mental health symptoms between men and women? The reasons are biological, behavioral and socio-cultural influences.
a. Biological influences
Female hormones are responsible for the mood fluctuations and depression. The hormone estrogen has some positive effects on the brain and protects them from severe conditions during menstrual cycles and Alzheimer. The higher rates of depression in women are due to the fact that they produce less serotonin, the mood stabilizer, because the synthesis is slow when compared to men.
b. Behavioral influences
There is a belief that more women report the mental illness to doctors than men. The health care professionals then diagnose women with disorders and treat them with mood altering drugs. Women usually report the illness to a general practitioner while men discuss the issues with specialists. At the same time, women may not report abuse and physical violence.
c. Socio-cultural influences
Whatever may be the state of mind/health of women, most of the tasks are usually carried out by them including taking care of the home, children along with the office etc. This adds to their stress. Some girls become depressed during puberty while some of them may be depressed when they are sexually abused.
Ongoing research on mental health
Though there are no clear explanations for the differences in the symptoms and behavior, several institutes are carrying out various researches to understand mental health among men and women. The researchers from the Women’s Health Research Center at Yale University are studying about various problems related to mental health of women. Some of them include:
a. Difference in the development of brain that may throw light on preventing and treating bipolar disorder and depression.
b. Memory and mood process in women that make quit smoking harder.
c. Effects of the hormone estrogen on behavior, memory, emotion and cognition and how it affects the rate of depression and PTSD.
d. Genetic factors that contribute to alcoholism.
With more and more research, there is going to be greater understanding on the mental problems faced by women. Experts believe that they will be able to provide targeted treatments that can be more effective.