More Women Face Mental Illness
You may pay more attention to your physical health than how you feel mentally. Like any physical ailment, though, conditions such as depression, anxiety, and substance abuse can tax your body. More than 45 million Americans struggle with a mental health problem, and many of them are women. Knowing more about mental illness, including the warning signs, can help keep your body - and mind - healthy.
A mental illness is any disorder that affects a person mentally, behaviorally, or emotionally. Such an illness can strike anyone. But more women than men tend to suffer from mental health problems, particularly depression and anxiety-related conditions. In fact, the latest national survey on mental health found that 23 percent of women reported having a mental illness, compared with 15.9 percent of men. People ages 18 to 25 were especially prone.
Why are more women diagnosed with mental illness? The reason for this gender gap is complex. Many factors, such as genetics and environment, play a role. For instance, with depression, the hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy and menopause can affect the portions of the brain that control mood and emotion.
The answer certainly goes beyond biology, though. Women are more often victims of violence. They also tend to be poor and have a lower social status. Such societal factors can increase a person's risk for mental illness. In addition, women are more likely than men to seek professional help for a mental health problem.
Although more women than men ask for help with a mental illness, many more women avoid mentioning the problem. Some may even suffer for years before seeking help. Many mental illnesses are treatable. To start feeling better, though, you need to speak up first.
Talk with your doctor right away if you or a loved one is experiencing several of the following symptoms for more than two weeks, especially if they interfere with work or school. They may indicate a mental illness:
- Recent social withdrawal or isolation
- Dramatic weight gain or loss
- Lack of interest in favorite activities
- Changes in sleep or appetite
- Problems thinking or remembering
- Lingering feelings of sadness or hopelessness
- Rapid mood swings
- Drop in personal hygiene
- Nervousness or anxiety around other people
- Thoughts of suicide
Always talk with your health care provider to find out more information.