Mental health issues present a significant challenge for women of all ages. In fact, a recent study found that nearly one in four women struggle with some form of mental illness. And while young women between the ages of 17 and 19 are as much as twice as likely to develop mental health issues, the problem isn’t age specific. With mental illness on the rise at nearly every age, understanding the most common challenges and what can be done to improve mental health is an important step toward reversing the current trend.
Most Common Mental Health Issues for Women
Many women neglect to seek treatment for mental health concerns because they feel like they’re alone in the struggle or should be able to deal with it on their own. While many mental health issues can be isolating, they are more common than most women might think, and there is often comfort in understanding that others may be dealing with the same or similar challenges. In fact, several mental health conditions occur far more often in women and have a significant impact – one that cannot be managed without an effective course of treatment – on women’s overall health. Mental health issues that are most common in women include:
• Eating Disorders
Warning Signs of Mental Health Issues
The onset of mental health issues may be tied to a specific event or experience or even be a predisposition in one’s personality. And while each individual may experience different symptoms of a disorder, there are several warning signs that may indicate one is in a poor state of mental health. The typical early warning signs of mental health issues include:
• Pervasive sadness and/or feeling of hopelessness
• Substance abuse, particularly alcohol or drugs
• Significant and sudden changes in eating or sleeping
• A decrease in overall energy or increase in fatigue
• Unfounded and excessive fear and/or worry
• Extremes in mood, including both highs and lows
• Neurologic and digestive pain without cause
• A significant change in social activity or withdrawal
• Thoughts of suicide and/or self-mutilation
Effective Ways to Care for Mental Health
With as common as mental illness is today, it is important for everyone to see to their mental health on a daily basis. Fortunately, there are several practical ways anyone can support a healthy mental and emotional state.
1. Practice self-awareness and talk about feelings.
2. Exercise regularly – most days of the week.
3. Eat a balanced diet of whole, unprocessed foods.
4. Interact with others and maintain relationships.
5. Seek help with work and personal responsibilities.
6. Participate in activities at which one excels.
Each of these suggestions is an effective way to look after one’s mental health for a healthy individual. Individuals who are struggling with specific mental health issues, though, need more specific treatment and support.
Treatment for Mental Health Issues in Women
In most cases, the right form of therapy makes all of the difference for women struggling with mental conditions. The most effective form of treatment typically depends on the specific issue as well as the individual. Most women benefit from a combination of cognitive behavioral therapy, other therapeutic methods, and, in some cases, medication. A trusted mental health professional can recommend the best type of treatment and oversee a team of care providers to ensure the individual receives the care that she needs. As with any health concern, seeking help is the first step toward a remedy.
Fake smiles and empty pleasantries underwrite the shallow atmosphere of family Christmas parties and workplace holiday functions. Behind the thin veil of “everything is perfect and I am happy!” is a familiar and lingering sensation. It’s cold and close, subtle yet overwhelming. It is shame in every form, every manifestation you can fathom. It wants you to feel alone in your quiet war for happiness and safety. Minute after minute self-loathing thoughts are competing against a sincere desire to look healthy, calm and successful. This endless cycle goes on for a lifetime and eats away at human souls leaving empty husks who are confused and at a loss. There is a solution to this struggle. A tool to dismantle our walls of shame and transmute them into bridges of connection. A path out of the lonely caverns of self-hatred on to the warm plains of self-love and healing. It’s vulnerability. The thought of sharing our deepest struggles with another human is uncomfortable for most and outright horrifying for many. However that critical component of shame, the “ I am alone in this and no one will understand” rhetoric, is immediately vaporized when we make the courageous choice to share our true feelings and thoughts with another human we trust.
This news is a relief to many, but in practice, we tend to emotionally puke on whoever is closest to us physically and call it vulnerability. This is not healthy vulnerability. It is grabbing for emotional validation and it’s inconsiderate to ourselves and the other human involved. For vulnerability to become the knife that cuts through shame it needs to be practiced in a safe space. We must make sure whoever we share our deepest struggles with has earned the right to hear our story and won't be damaged by hearing it. Being honest and connecting with others are always great things. It's important we value our healing enough to find the right people to talk to about our shame, people who understand the power of vulnerability and will support and reciprocate our honesty. The holiday season is a maelstrom of conflict and a seething cauldron of shame triggers. Let's all find a trustworthy human to get vulnerable with and transmute shame into healing. Happy Holidays!