Women and Mental Health
Mental health issues can occur with anyone, regardless of gender, race, socioeconomic background, or age. These illnesses usually are a product of a mixture of biological influences, possible family history, individual traumas, and socio-cultural influences. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) estimates that approximately 23.8 percent of American women have experienced a diagnosable mental health disorder in the last year, compared to the estimated 15.6 percent of men who have mental illness. Some mental illness symptoms include feeling down or sad, inability to concentrate, excessive worry or fear, extreme mood changes, apathy, detachment from reality (hallucinations, delusions), alcohol or drug abuse, changes in sex drive, changes in eating habits, excessive anger, thoughts of violence, or suicidal thinking. If you identify with many of these symptoms, see a general physician or mental health specialist.
What Factors Contribute to Mental Disorders in Women?
Socio-Cultural Influences: Gender-based violence, sexual abuse, socioeconomic disadvantage, low income and income inequality, low or subordinate social status and rank and unremitting responsibility for the care of others, as women are still the primary caregivers for children and it is estimated that they also provide 80 percent of all caregiving for chronically ill elders, can all contribute to mental health issues in women. Sexualization in the media is also tied to low self-image and self-esteem, which in turn can result in disorders such as depression and eating disorders.
Biological Influences: Female hormonal fluctuations are known to play a role in mood and depression. Women tend to produce less of the mood stabilizer serotonin and synthesize it more slowly than men, which may account for the higher rates of depression. Women also can experience postpartum depression after giving birth, which is usually thought to be a combination of hormones and the stress of taking care of a newborn.
Behavioral Influences: Gender bias often occurs in the treatment of psychological disorders. There is some thinking that women are more apt to report mental health disturbances than men to their general practitioner. Doctors are more likely to diagnose depression in women compared with men, even when they have similar scores on standardized measures of depression or present with identical symptoms. Female gender is also a significant predictor of being prescribed mood altering psychotropic drugs.
How Can Women Treat Mental Illnesses?
Medication, such as anxiety medications and antidepressants, that a doctor or psychiatrist may prescribe can help treat mental illnesses. Many of these medications do have common side effects including nausea, insomnia, fatigue, weight gain, and more. If you are assigned a medication that makes you suffer with added side effects, tell your doctor and he may prescribe you a different medication. It is okay to switch medications to find which is best for you.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help women by showing them how to observe the relationship between their thoughts, feelings and actions, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. This sort of therapy helps hone in on self-destructive behavior and irrational thought to attempt to change thinking patterns from negative to positive. This type of therapy can be especially beneficial to those suffering from depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and substance abuse problems.
Psychotherapy, or talk therapy, is very useful for mild to moderate depression. It can help women identify the feelings, actions and ideas that play a role in their mental illnesses to give them a greater sense of control over their condition.
Group Therapy usually involves one or more psychologists that lead a small group, usually focused on a specific problem. These groups usually act as support network, helping relinquish feelings of isolation or going through a problem alone. Listening to other’s problems, strategies, and solutions also helps change perspective and can help enable people to discover a range of solutions and strategies for coping with their own illnesses. There are wide varieties of group options available, so talk to a general practitioner or psychologist for recommendations, or look for any sponsored by local clinics.
Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) might help women who are depressed or experiencing mood changes associated with premenstrual syndrome and premenstrual dysphoric disorder. It can also help those who have sudden drops in the levels of hormones after menopause or childbirth.
Leading a Healthy Lifestyle can also help alleviate mental illness symptoms. Activities such as daily exercise, relaxation, eating healthy, engaging in social activities, and journaling are all positive actions that are typically beneficial towards treatment.
Paying for Treatment
Most health insurance plans will cover treatment for mental illnesses, such as therapy sessions and medication. Talk to your insurance provider about what behavioral health treatments are covered. If you do not have access to health insurance, you may have access to Medicaid or Medicare. To see if you are able to qualify for these and other government programs, and to see what kinds of coverage are provided, contact the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), at 877-267-2323. You can also find contact information for your state’s mental health program from the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors at http://www.nasmhpd.org/members.html. Your state mental health agency will be helpful in telling you how mental health services in your state are funded. Information about medical and health care assistance is available at your county/city social services departments, health and human services department, or Social Security office.
Minnesota Women’s Mental Health Resources
Women’s Mental Health Clinic
Hennepin County Medical Center
914 South 8th Street
Shapiro Building, Suite 110
Minneapolis MN 55404
Women’s Group Therapy – Thursdays, 6:00pm-8:00pm
Minnesota Mental Health Clinics, Eagan Clinic Location
To schedule a program assessment, phone 651-365-8222.
National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Minnesota
800 Transfer Road, #31
Saint Paul, MN 55114
A list of mental health crisis phone numbers by Minnesota county can be found at the Minnesota Department of Human Services website at: