Specialized Mental Health Treatment for Women

Women who are affected mainly by mental illnesses are often reluctant to get help. Seeking treatment can feel daunting. The fight against mental illness in the healthcare industry is real. 

Diagnosing severe conditions isn’t easy. Depression and anxiety, bipolar disorder as well as schizophrenia are amongst the main conditions that require proper diagnosis. There is an underlying stigma attached to mental disease that keeps people from being treated.  

Millions of adults in the U.S. are treated for mental illness each year. In 2017, 46.6 million people got help. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, the percentage of women that were treated was 50% more than men.

The United States Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch’s study revealed that a woman service member’s anxiety diagnosis was 1.4 times that of their male counterpart. The women that were surveyed reported to be diagnosed with depression 1.9 times more than men.

Why Women Need a Specialized Approach

Even though the incidence of bipolar and schizophrenia is the same, the symptoms that women experience are often different in the opposite sex. Although mental illness doesn’t discriminate, health care professionals are finding that a different approach is needed when treating women. 

Women often feel too ashamed to seek help. Sometimes they aren’t even aware that their symptoms constitute an illness. That’s why educating women about various mental health conditions is imperative to reaching those who need it. 

The adverse effects that poor mental health has on women is prevalent. Providing information to family members and offering resources will aid everyone in their healing journey.

Woman's Mental Health: Facts and Figures

According to The World Health Organization(WHO), more than half of patients who meet the criteria for a psychological illness get left undiagnosed. This is an ongoing problem within the healthcare industry. Most family and friends will not be aware of their loved ones’ illnesses on their own. And it makes it more difficult to shed light on the issue, especially when a trained doctor was unable to do so.

Woman's Mental Health in the United States

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is twice as likely to afflict women more than men. Out of the 6.8 million people in the U.S. that are affected by GAD, only 43% get treated. Panic Order(PD), which affects 6 million U.S. adults, is also diagnosed in women two times more than men. Specific phobias fall under that diagnosis and impact 19 million adults in this country.

Severe mental illness is prevalent in 70% of women versus men.

NIMH compiled figures that showed that severe mental illness(SMI) affects 4.5% of the population, amounting to 11 million adults in the U.S. each year. That’s 5.7% of adult women that are diagnosed with SMI compared to 3.3% of their counterparts.

Women who are exposed to violence are three to four times more likely to suffer from depression.

Research from WHO states, depression gets diagnosed at a higher rate in women who are exposed to violence as an adult or sexual abuse as a child. The severity and the duration of violent exposure correlate with the severity of the resulting illness.

Differences Between the Mental Health of Men and Women

Unipolar depression is forecasted to be the second most common source of a “global disability burden” by 2020. Women are once again twice as likely to be affected.

The WHO surmises that the impact of psychological disabilities will ease considerably as more women get treated. Comorbid mental illness (two or more disorders affecting one person) is more likely to affect women. The burden of this condition is more persistent in women. They often suffer from multiple “comorbid” conditions, making it more challenging to manage.

While women are more likely to experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) than men, they often postpone seeking a diagnosis. Treatment usually takes place much longer after symptoms arise.

The Office of Women’s Health reports that women end up waiting an average of four years to seek treatment versus the one year a man remains after their onset of PTSD symptoms. The primary source of PTSD continues to be from sexual violence. According to Recovery Across Mental Health, women have an increased rate of developing PTSD after a traumatic event: 20.4% for women compared to 8.1% for men. The ADAA reports that 45.9% of female rape victims and 65% of male victims will develop PTSD.

Eating disorders affect almost ten times more women than men. Recovery Across Mental Health reports that 1.9% of women will experience anorexia(excessive weight loss) compared to 0.2% of men each year. Bulimia(binge eating and purging) impacts between 0.5% and 1% of young women in a year.

Stigma and Issues Surrounding Women's Mental Health

Women often worry about how others see them. They feel the pressure to feel normal, yet continue to struggle to get help. This delay in treatment is often due to “internalized or self-stigma.” Their self-image is usually formed by how others perceive them instead of how they view themselves.

Women often feel stigmatized for seeking help with a mental health issue. They do not want to feel less than and are fearful of what others may think. Women, much more than men, rely on the opinions from the outside world. This low self-esteem often delays or even prevents women from being treated.

Women of color feel the sharpest stigma for seeking treatment. They are often raised not to feel weak. They often perceive receiving help as a sign of weakness instead of strength.

Women are twice as likely as men to experience depression. Johns Hopkins Medicine reports that African American women are half as likely as Caucasian women to seek assistance from a mental health professional. Women of Latina ethnicity are comparatively hesitant to get treated.

Many cultural and minority women wish to view themselves as strong and stoic. This image isn’t maintainable in their eye, once diagnosed with a mental illness. They want to put the needs of their loved ones above their own. The sooner they can be convinced to seek treatment, the easier it will be to control their health and households.

Women's Mental Health Conditions and Symptoms

Women are often affected by the same mental illness as men but experience them in unique ways. Specific strategies need to be in place and devised to treat a particular disorder.

Here’s a glance as to how women are affected differently than men by common mental health issues.

Depression in Women

Just like every woman is unique, so is their experience with depression. Women’s hormone levels play a part in perinatal depression (depression occurring before birth) and Postpartum depression(after childbirth). Other hormone-related issues, such as Premenstrual dysphoric disorder and depression related to perimenopause, are affected as well.

Common Depressive symptoms include:

  • Feelings of hopelessness, uselessness, sadness or emptiness
  • Frequent crying
  • No longer finding joy in favorite activities
  • Lethargy
  • Trouble focusing, remembering and making decisions
  • Trouble sleeping (difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep or getting out of bed)
  • Loss of appetite, unintentional weight loss or weight gain due to eating one’s feelings
  • Suicidal and other self-harmful thoughts
  • Physical symptoms including constant headaches, nausea that don’t improve with traditional treatment
  • Easily aggravated, angered or annoyed

There are genetic differences in men and women who are plagued with depression. Discerning the different causes of the disease in both sexes will improve diagnostic testing and gender-based treatment.

Anxiety in Women

The NIMH defines general Anxiety Disorder (GAD) as experiencing “excessive anxiety or worry” for most days over six months. There are many anxiety disorders under this category such as 

23.4% of women versus 14.3% of men are affected by anxiety disorders.

Anxiety disorder symptoms:

  • Feelings of impending doom, gloom or disaster
  • Chronic nervousness and irritability
  • Sleeplessness
  • Feeling weak or tired
  • Stomach aches as well as other digestive issues
  • Unusual sweating, hyperventilating, trembling and racing heartbeat

Perinatal Depression in Women

An estimate of 10% of pregnant women and 13% of postpartum women will primarily experience depression. Perinatal depression hinders the development of the unborn child as well as impairing a woman’s functionality. All pregnant women are susceptible to mental illnesses such as perinatal depression. The number of women in developing countries who experience postpartum depression is at 20%.

Poverty, migration, stress, and exposure to violence only exacerbates perinatal depression. There is a great need to educate women about children’s and reproductive health. To effectively treat the entire person, it’s essential to focus on the combination of maternal mental health using general health guidelines.

Eating Disorders in Women

There are 20 million women vs. 10 million men who are affected by eating disorders. That’s twice as many women than their counterparts. Researchers are still unsure of the causes of illnesses. Nevertheless, their belief is that biology, psychology, and culture all play a part.

Risk factors for developing an eating disorder:

  • Having a close relative to you with an eating disorder
  • Chronic dieting
  • Burning more calories than are eaten(negative energy balance)
  • Poor body image
  • History of being bullied or body shamed for weight
  • Rigid self-views
  • Perfectionism and behavioral inflexibility

Postpartum Depression in Women

Women who experience Postpartum depression feel extreme sadness, lethargy, and anxiety. These symptoms impede the mother’s ability to care for herself and her baby. Physical and emotional factors that play into depression include both peri and postpartum hormonal changes. The lack of sleep, along with the pain and exhaustion of pregnancy and giving birth, only fuels the fire and makes everything in life feel overwhelming.

Since symptoms vary from woman to woman, it makes it challenging to diagnose postpartum depression. Some new mothers may downplay their condition and just call it the “baby blues.” The NIMH recommends that a woman consults their healthcare provider immediately if they experience any of the above symptoms.

Body Dysmorphic Disorder in Women

The Cleveland Clinic defines body dysmorphic disorder as a person’s extreme anxiety about some perceived physical defect. People who are affected by BDD are usually insecure about their appearance and continuously seek outside reassurance and approval. They believe that a part of them is so ugly that it often forces them to remedy the situation surgically.

Even though this disorder frequently affects women and men equally, women struggle more with societal pressures to be beautiful. This undue pressure to look a certain way makes it harder for women to function in their daily lives. 

Common physicalities of concern to BDD sufferers include: 

  • Skin issues( like blemishes or loose skin) 
  • Unwanted hair or the lack of it 
  • The size and shape of facial features.

Bipolar Disorder in Women

Bipolar disorder is known for its extensive and extreme mood swings. These variances differ from the regular ups and downs that people generally experience. Having such drastic mood changes can interfere and hinder one’s ability to function. Women tend to suffer from more depressive episodes than manic episodes than men.

Borderline Personality Disorder in Women

NIMH defines borderline personality disorder as a mental illness characterized by inconsistent behavior over an extended period, changeable moods, and varying self-image. The Office of Women’s Health at HHS states that BDD is a “serious mental illness.” It affects and adds to the instability of a person’s behavior, mood, relationships and self-image, and esteem. Young women are stricken with this condition more than any other demographic.

People who have BPD have skewed and unrealistic views of themselves. They tend to act in dangerous and impulsive ways, and their mood changes are erratic. Family history of the disorder, brain trauma, and childhood traumatic events are all factors that increase someone’s risk of BPD.

Substance Abuse in Women

Even though women generally take lesser amounts of drugs over a shorter duration than men, they can become addicted to them faster. Sex hormones seem to play a role in a woman’s addiction. Hormones can make a woman more sensitive to the drug’s effects. This sensitivity can increase their cravings, which in turn can lead to a long term problem or relapse.

Pregnant and new mothers who abuse drugs put both themselves and their children at significant risk. Drugs such as stimulants and opioids can cause a mother to miscarry or damage the baby’s health. A woman’s risk of a stillbirth increases by a factor of two to three when they take prescription pain medications, smoke tobacco or cannabis, or use illegal drugs.

Women's Mental Health Providers

Many types of medical professionals have been trained to recognize mental health illnesses. But not all medical providers are licensed to diagnosis mental health disorders. The most common mental health professionals are:

Psychiatrists

Psychiatrists are medical doctors or a doctor of osteopathy who specializes in mental health. A psychiatrist evaluates patients to determine if the issue is a mental health problem or a severe medical condition. Psychiatrists are licensed to prescribe medicine. As a clinical leader in a mental health treatment center, psychiatrists help women design the medical treatment program for their mental health. A psychiatrist works alongside therapists and social workers to monitor a woman’s overall progress. 

Psychologists

Psychologists typically require a doctorate in mental health, although some states only require a master’s degree. Most psychologists cannot write prescriptions. Psychologists in mental health treatment centers work alongside psychiatrists and designs the woman’s mental health treatment plan. Psychologists help clients identify and work through all the psychological issues interfering with life. 

Psychiatric mental health nurses

Registered nurses with a specialty in mental health. Most hold advanced degrees, and some can write prescriptions. PMH nurses work with women to diagnose and treat mental health issues.

Licensed clinical social workers

Clinical social workers require a master or doctorate in social work. LCSW’s help women with mental and emotional problems. 

There are many specialties that an LCSW can focus on:

  • Substance abuse
  • Mental health issues
  • School social work
  • Public health
  • Marriage counseling
  • Family therapy
  • Child therapy
  • Medical social work
  • Research

For those who are nervous about seeing a medical professional, there are many helplines you can call along with many online support groups. It does not matter how a woman gets help for a mental illness, as long as she gets help.

Women's Mental Health Treatment at Renewal BH

At Renewal Behavioral Health, we offer expert programs focused on improving the mental health of women. Our programs are available to all clients in inpatient treatment, outpatient treatment, and after-care treatment. 

Inpatient Mental Health Treatment

Inpatient mental health treatment is beneficial for women who can’t handle everyday life and the mental battle they face. Inpatient treatment allows a woman to focus only on becoming mentally healthy while they live at the center. At Renewal BH, women work with our team of mental health professionals to restore a healthy and happy life. 

Outpatient Mental Health Treatment

Outpatient mental health treatment is beneficial for women who cannot step away from responsibilities but still need mental health treatment. Patients can go to work, school, and take care of their families while meeting with therapists and attending support groups. Some women continue with outpatient treatment after completing inpatient treatment. 

After-Care Mental Health Treatment

Renewal BH understands that a woman with mental health issues needs support even after treatment.

We offer on-campus support groups to help reinforce the tools and skills required to continue a mentally healthy life.

Along with our support groups, our therapists get each client in touch with local support groups in their area. After-care treatment may also include arranging safe housing for a client and setting up new medical and mental health doctors.

Our therapists at Renewal BH understand how scary being back in the “real world” can be for someone in recovery. And work hard to help every woman step out into a healthy environment. 

Women Take Control of Your Mental Health

Our dedicated and caring staff at Renewal Behavioral Health are waiting to help you take the first step toward a better life. Contact us today to learn more about our women’s mental health treatment programs. A better life is waiting for you!

References

https://online.regiscollege.edu/blog/womens-mental-health/

https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/mental-illness.shtmlhttps://www.who.int/mental_health/prevention/genderwomen/en/

http://www.womenshealth.northwestern.edu/blog/understanding-and-reducing-stigma-mental-illness-women