Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder In Women
Women are twice as likely as men to experience anxiety or depression during their lives. Times of great emotional and hormonal change such as the postpartum period may be particularly challenging for some women.
Unfortunately, too often, the unique psychological and psychiatric needs of women at times of transition in the life cycle go unrecognized and unmet. These times of intense hormonal changes can bring rise to distinct psychiatric care needs, which often go unmet.
We must recognize the importance of providing dedicated mental health care for women. Nationally recognized clinicians and researchers specialize in providing care that is sensitive to the challenges faced by women throughout the life cycle.
Women and Mental Illness
Why Are Mental Health Issues More Common Among?
One in three of the world population struggles with a mental illness, but the rate is much higher in women. Research suggests that women are about 40% more likely than men to develop depression. They’re twice as likely to develop PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder), with about 13% of women suffering from the state after a traumatic event, compared to just 4% of men. It’s easy to write off this epidemic of mental illness among women as the result of hormonal changes and genetic gender variances, or even to reason that women are just more “emotional” than men. The truth, though, is that psychiatrists aren’t sure why mental illness is more common among women and teasing out the specific factors that play a role in this challenge isn’t easy. So far, doctors have pointed to several possibilities.
Discrimination, Trauma, and Stressful Life Experiences
Trauma is common among women, with half of all women experiencing some form of trauma during their lives. One in four women have faced an attempted or completed sexual assault, and one in three reports being abused by a domestic partner. Trauma is a risk factor for a host of mental illnesses, most notably post-traumatic stress disorder. Thus, the challenges of gender discrimination, gendered violence, and mistreatment of women directly work to undermine women’s mental health.
Some women report receiving inadequate or insensitive care in response to trauma, and research suggests this can also play a role in the development of mental illness.
Sadly, discrimination can increase women’s exposure to stress, and stress is a significant predictor of mental illness. Research has consistently shown that women do more than their fair share of housework and childcare, even when they work full-time. Women also report having to work harder to get the same credit as men, and many women worry about an ongoing gender wage gap, as well as workplaces where sexual harassment and discrimination are commonplace. Each of these common challenges is highly stressful and can conspire to tear down women’s coping skills and self-esteem.
It’s a common misconception that estrogen is a “female” hormone while testosterone is the “male” hormone. Both men and women have each hormone in their bloodstreams, but in different quantities based on age, health, and an assortment of other factors.
Some research suggests that hormonal differences between men and women may play a role in mental illness. Women, for example, tend to produce lower quantities of serotonin than men, possibly due to differences in hormone levels. Serotonin deficiency has been implicated in a host of mental health issues, most notably depression and anxiety.
Pregnancy, Birth, and Parenting
The physiological changes women face during pregnancy and childbirth truly cannot be overstated. As many as 41% of women suffer from some form of postpartum depression, suggesting that physiological shifts likely play a significant role in mental illness.
The connection isn’t just physiological, though. Some women are overwhelmed by the demands of parenting, particularly in the early days. Research has shown that women who have unsupportive partners, traumatic births, who live in poverty, or who face high levels of stress are significantly more likely to develop postpartum depression. This suggests that the challenges commonly faced by women may directly contribute to postpartum mental health issues.
Our Approach to Women’s Mental Health
For overall health and well-being, emotional fitness is a must. Psychiatrists and mental health clinicians are trained in helping women with psychological distress and psychiatric symptoms that may arise from physical and emotional life events. Working with providers across multiple disciplines, we focus on mental well-being during times of reproductive life cycle transition, including:
- Pregnancy and the postpartum period
- Pregnancy loss
- Mood disorders related to menstruation, menopause, and ageing