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The Unique Challenges of Women's Mental Health

Women are subject to social and cultural factors that contribute to unique challenges to mental health and overall well-being. It is important to increase awareness and support of these challenges to put yourself and the women around you in a better place to access the help they need. 

Unique Challenges of Women’s Mental Health

Women today face several unique challenges over their counterparts, namely:

  • Genetic differences in mental health disorders
  • Life transitions and stress
  • Social expectations
  • Gender-based trauma

Genetic Differences in Women’s Mental Health

Women experience higher rates of certain mental health disorders and subsequent forms of addiction. Many women who struggle with depression, discrimination, or social expectations never get the help they need. 

  • Women are more likely to be diagnosed with anxiety or depression compared to men
  • Women are more likely to be prescribed antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications like benzodiazepines
  • Women are more likely to self-medicate with prescriptions for secondary issues
  • Women’s sex hormones make them more sensitive to chronic pain and substance abuse
  • Women are more likely than men to self-medicate with opioids for chronic pain
  • Once women start to self-medicate with any substance, they are at a higher risk compared to men of addiction and subsequent relapse
  • Nine percent of women under twenty-five struggle with alcoholism

Women are also more likely to struggle with co-occurring mental health disorders, like depression, anxiety, eating disorders, trauma, and PTSD. 

Fact: Almost fifty percent of women with anxiety or depression self-medicate with drugs or alcohol and become addicted. 

Life Transitions and Stress for Women

Women are typically forced to navigate transitions and stress in a way that does not necessarily affect their male counterparts. Women can struggle with mental health issues related to the family such as:

  • Childbirth
  • Death in the family
  • Divorce

When a new child comes into the family, women often believe that they are expected to handle this transition on their own, caring for all of the nighttime feedings and keeping the house together, especially if the other partner is still working, but in reality, this increases the risk of things like postpartum depression and is something that should be balanced across all family members.

Major transitions like moving, changing schools, or having a partner who suddenly gets a more demanding job can mean that women are forced to pick up the slack despite having a job themselves or caring for the family. This can place a significant burden on women, which increases the risk of mental health disorders or self-medicating with drugs and alcohol. 

Tangentially, women are often required to simply have higher levels of energy, especially as it relates to maintaining a job, maintaining the house, and caring for children and spouses, which can lead to higher risks of stress, chronic pain, and addiction.

Social Expectations of Women

Social expectations influence women differently than men. Where men might deal with the difficult balance of providing for their family while also being present with their family, women might struggle with social expectations to:

  • Earn money for the family
  • Support their spouse
  • Raise a family
  • Maintain the house
  • Cook for the family

When laundry isn't put away, children aren't well behaved, or women themselves are overweight, it's the women who become the target of criticism, who are considered responsible. social expectations don't tend to criticize the male in the family if the house isn't clean, even if both men and women in the relationship work full time.

For this reason, women are more likely to struggle with higher levels of mood disorders and anxiety compared to men. Similarly, women are more likely to struggle with cocaine or methamphetamine abuse to try and lose weight.

Gender-Based Trauma and Women’s Mental Health

Women struggle with domestic abuse, discrimination, and gender-based violence at higher rates than men, which, if not treated properly, can lead to mental health issues and addiction. 

One in three women will face domestic violence at some point in their lives. Without treatment, this can lead to PTSD, which increases the risk of self-medication and addiction. 

Discrimination can happen at work, in the home, or in the community, and gender-based violence can happen at any time. 

If you or someone close to you has struggled with gender-based trauma, it is important to get the right type of evidence-based treatment and dual diagnosis treatment for situations where trauma has led to addiction. 

Accessing the Right Treatment

The unique challenges of women's mental health need to be addressed with the right kind of care. 

For example:

Women who are struggling with untreated PTSD from gender-based violence or domestic violence may not feel comfortable in a program that includes men and women.

Women who are struggling with the pressure of social expectations and the subsequent mental health disorders and addiction that create may want a treatment program led by women so that they have a safe space in which to discuss gender-based challenges.

Gender-based treatment programs provide women's only care for mental health or addiction recovery. There are gender-specific support groups as well for individuals who are struggling as well as their family members. Women who are feeling overwhelmed, dealing with discrimination, postpartum depression, or any other type of mental health disorder can always seek individual therapy with a qualified therapist.

Overall, women face several unique challenges when it comes to mental health. Navigating family stress or genetic risks of depression and addiction can seem impossible alone. Thankfully, you don’t need to do it alone; there are resources out there to help you get the right care today. 

The Bridge to Recovery is a Kentucky mental health treatment center. We offer a wide variety of treatments to help improve mental health, especially for women. COntact us today to learn more. 

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