This is a complicated question with some important contributing factors. There are significant differences in women’s mental health when compared to men. The contributing factors to this dilemma could be gender related and even societal factors. However, one anomaly does stick out, women’s experience and exposure to sexual assault.
Women Who Experience Trauma
One in four women have faced sexual assault, while one in three report physical or emotional abuse from a domestic partner. Trauma is a risk factor for a number of mental health issues and one that leans heavily towards women over men. Women who are suffering from mental health issues are more likely than men to reach out for help, which is good news.
Reporting & Diagnosis
One in four women will seek treatment for depression, versus one in ten men. Doctors are also more likely to diagnose a mental health illness in a woman over a man. This could be for several reasons: stigma, gender roles, cultural factors, the role of “caregiver,” etc. While there are biological differences between men and women that can affect the experience of mental health issues, it is important not to place too high an emphasis on these biological factors.
Although trauma is a factor that contributes to mental health issues with women, there are also other experiences that affect women and cause other mental health issues.
As mentioned above, trauma is more common in women, and they are twice as likely to develop PTSD after being a victim or witness to a traumatic event. This experienced, traumatic event can ignite fear and stress-related symptoms and unfortunately, these symptoms may not be short-term. A long-term emotional response to a traumatic event can often times develop into long-term disposition which eventually becomes clinical in nature.
Depression is one of the most commonly diagnosed psychological disorders. Out of several millions of people diagnosed each year, it’s estimated that one in eight women will suffer a period of major depression in their lifetime, and experience depression at twice the rate of men (or, as stated above, report depression at a higher rate than men). Additionally 10% of pregnant women and 15% of postpartum women experience depression, while 80% of women have reported a brief period of mood symptoms called “postpartum blues.”
One of the more common mental health issues among women is anxiety. Stress overload is a leading contributor to anxiety, eliciting a frightful panic feeling in a non-threatening siutation. As a result of stress, there is twice the chance that a woman will suffer panic attacks and general anxiety over time. There are multiple types of anxiety disorders as well, all of which have different symptoms.
The Office on Women’s Health in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has put together a comprehensive booklet which offers even more insight into women’s overall mental health.
As stated above, women can be victims of or witness to trauma in their lives, which can fuel a number of mental health issues, including anxiety, PTSD, depression and substance abuse. Recovery through Trauma-Informed Care works to acknowledge each woman’s trauma histories and understands the impact of trauma on how she sees the world.
Trauma-Informed Care provides treatment in a way that helps women understand how trauma affects their outlook and behavior and puts their symptoms into a context. In order to build a sense of empowerment and hope, which are often taken away through a mental illness, Trauma-Informed Care seeks to help individuals feel control over their situation and their symptoms.
Treatment providers work with their patients to develop a sense of security. Without this sense of security, individual cannot begin to change old ways of thinking and behaving. They must feel secure in order to try new ways of coping and to find more effective and healthy ways to address their trauma.