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Women's Health

Women's Health

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.

Photo of woman looking sad

Women and mental illness

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.

Signs of mental illness

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

Think you or a loved one may be suffering from a mental illness? Don't despair. Read this article to learn more about finding the help you need. 

Always talk with your health care provider to find out more information.

Online Resources

(Our Organization is not responsible for the content of Internet sites.)

American Psychiatric Association - Women's Mental Health

Mental Health America - Women

National Institute of Mental Health - Women and Mental Health

March 2013

Staying Mentally Healthy

To keep yourself healthy, you may watch your weight, exercise, or eat more fruits and veggies. But don't forget about your mind. Here are some ways to help you stay mentally fit, too:

  • Build good relationships with family and friends. Spend time with them; don't isolate yourself.

  • Talk about your problems or concerns. Don't keep feelings inside.

  • Make time every day to do something you enjoy.

  • Learn to deal with stress. Try yoga or meditation. Regular exercise is also a proven stress buster and mood enhancer.

  • Think positive. Negative thoughts can bring you down.

  • Always talk with your health care provider to find out more information.

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