a guest post by Alicia Sparks
When it comes to mental illnesses and women, statistics lead us to believe that certain kinds of mental health problems seem to prefer striking females rather than males.
For example, women are more likely than men to develop most kinds of anxiety disorders (Dr. Kendall Genre discussed this issue in a recent ABC News video), and while research has shown that 1 in 10 dads develop postpartum depression, 14% of all new moms develop postpartum depression. (For those of you who, like myself, struggle a bit with math, that means 1.4 women out of every 10 develop postpartum depression. I know, you can’t be “1.4,” but the point is it’s more than one.)
First periods, and now this. We’re a lucky bunch, aren’t we?
Of course, lots of folks believe that many of the gender differences we see regarding mental illness are due to the idea that more women than men come forward for help. This isn’t so hard to believe. Let’s face it: Lots of guys think they’re supposed to be, oh, I don’t know, Superman. Minus the bit about being “faster than a speeding bullet,” of course.
With that being said, statistics are currently the only concrete pieces of evidence we have to go by, so let’s take a look at what statistics tell us are the top 5 mental health concerns for women, in no particular order.
I know, I know, I covered this in the intro, but really, it’s worth repeating. Aside from obsessive-compulsive disorder, which tends to strike both females and males equally, anxiety disorders as a whole (we’re talking generalized anxiety, social phobia, posttraumatic stress disorder, and panic disorder) seem to occur more frequently in women. To learn more about anxiety disorders, I recommend checking out the National Institute of Mental Health’s very thorough online booklet about anxiety disorders, as well as visiting the Anxiety Disorders Association of America.
If you’re thinking, “Eating disorders? Those aren’t mental health concerns,” you’re wrong. Eating disorders are indeed mental health concerns. In their online booklet about eating disorders, the NIMH defines eating disorders as “real, treatable medical illnesses with complex underlying psychological and biological causes,” notes that eating disorders “frequently co-exist with other psychiatric disorders such as depression, substance abuse, or anxiety disorders,” and points out that “[w]omen and girls are much more likely than males to develop an eating disorder.” For more information about eating disorders, and to join in some lively conversations with people who’ve been there, check out b5media’s own Breaking the Mirror written by Angelique.
Ah, a word everyone might be a bit more familiar with. According to the NIMH, “more women than men are likely to be diagnosed with depression in any given year.” It’s important to note that depression is more than just feeling blue every now and then (something we all experience from time to time). Depression is ongoing and interferes with a person’s everyday routine and functioning. While the NIMH provides an excellent online booklet about women and depression, I’d naturally be tickled if you’d also check out my post Tell Me More about Depression: Signs, Symptoms, and Treatments.
Now, this is a tricky one. Not because it seems to be the en vogue mental health diagnosis these days, especially among out-of-control celebrities, but because the statistics regarding the genders and bipolar disorder aren’t as clear cut. While the number of men and women who develop bipolar disorder seem to be about the same, women seem to develop bipolar II disorder and rapid cycling symptoms more often than men do. For more information about bipolar disorder, don’t scrounge around for the latest gossip column about Britney Spears, but do check out the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance and my post Tell Me More about Bipolar Disorder: Signs, Symptoms, and Treatments.
Another tricky one. Suicide isn’t a mental illness, obviously, but it is a mental health concern as it’s often a very real and serious risk for everyone – women and men alike – who deals with mental illness. But here’s where it gets tricky: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that while men are four times as likely as women to die by suicide, three times more women than men are attempting suicide. That means that while more men are successful at completing suicides, more women are trying to commit suicide. The resources out there for learning more about suicide, as well as how to help prevent suicide, are plentiful, and you can find a decent round up of just a few of them to get you started at my post Tell Me More about Suicide: Risks, Warning Signs, and Resources.
If you suspect you may be suffering from a mental health problem (or even if your family or friends suspect it – they’re oftentimes pretty good at spotting problems), don’t be afraid or embarrassed to make an appointment with a mental health care provider. Your brain is an organ just like any other in that when it gets sick, you need to treat it. Period. And, if you still feel nervous, you can always invite your mom, your sister, or your best girlfriend along for the ride. Aside from moral support, they’re also great for pitching in on the gas!
Alicia Sparks is the author of b5media’s Mental Health Notes and affiliate leader for her county’s National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) affiliate.
Tags: womens health blog, womens health, women, woman, health, mental health, most common mental illnesses in women, most common mental disorders in women, most common psychological illnesses in women, most common psychological disorders in women, lively women, alicia sparks, mental health notes, kristen king