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There are some ways that women and men are simply different. One realm where distinct differences between the genders are identified is mental health. Female hormonal functioning is one such thing that differentiates women from men, and often creates some unique challenges.
Creating mental health gateways for women is an important goal within the mental health profession. The need, and preference, for specialized services adapted for women is one that is being driven by the marketplace. Finding mental health practitioners that align their services for the unique needs of women is an emerging trend in the field of psychiatry.
Mental Health Disorders that are More Prevalent in Women
There are significant differences between men and women when it comes to both depressive disorders and anxiety disorders. The science is well documented, reporting that women are nearly twice as prone to depression and anxiety. Hormonal fluctuations, as well as differences in the way women manage stress, offer both biological and psychosocial explanations for the why these mental health disorders are more common in women.
Depression. Women experience fluctuation in hormone levels that begin with the onset of menses and persist through menopause. Mood swings and depressive episodes may accompany this basic biological difference between the sexes. Women often struggle to manage a long list of roles and responsibilities that usually involve caring for others, which can sometimes become overwhelming. The hormonal fluctuations only exacerbate the already present feelings of frustration, stress, social pressures, and ineffectiveness, resulting in clinical depression.
Major depressive disorder: Symptoms of MDD include:
- Feelings of hopelessness and sadness
- Sudden weight gain or loss
- Changes in sleeping patterns
- Feelings of shame or guilt
- Slowed cognitive and motor functions
- Loss of interest in activities usually enjoyed
- Difficulty making decisions or concentrating
- Thoughts of suicide
Postpartum depression: Symptoms of postpartum depression include:
- Feelings of despair and sadness
- Crying often for no specific reason
- Excessive sleeping
- Feelings of inadequacy in caring for the baby
- Memory problems
- Loss of interest in sex or other activities once enjoyed
- Irritability, anger
- Difficulty bonding with the infant
Premenstrual dysmorphic disorder: Symptoms of PMDD include:
- Enhanced PMS symptoms
- Feelings of sadness and hopelessness
- Mood swings
- Sleep disturbances
Perimenopausal depression. Symptoms of perimenopausal depression include:
- Feelings of despair
- Slowed cognitive function
- Loss of interest in hobbies or activities once enjoyed
- Feelings of worthlessness
- Sleep disturbances due to hot flashes or night sweats
- Mood swings
- Concentration problems
Anxiety. Anxiety disorders feature mental health conditions involving intense worry or fear. Science has identified some factors that contribute to the increased prevalence of anxiety among women. Differences in brain chemistry between the sexes are reported factors. Women remain activated in the fight-or-flight mode longer than men, leading to increased cortisol and adrenaline levels. Women also do not produce serotonin as quickly as men, and serotonin helps mitigate the fear response. General symptoms of anxiety include:
- Rapid heart rate
- Shallow breathing
- Gastrointestinal issues
Women experience particularly higher rates of generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety, and phobia.
Mental Health Gateways for Women Address Unique Differences in Bipolar Disorder
While prevalence between genders may not differ for a mental health disorder such as bipolar disorder (BD), the way the illness is experienced does differ between men and women. First, women are diagnosed with BD at a later age than men, even as late as the 50s. According to an article published in the Indian Journal of Psychiatry, other notable differences between the genders with BD include:
- Women usually initially present with the depressive episodes
- More women are hospitalized due the BD
- Women with BD are more apt to attempt suicide than men
- Women experience a seasonal pattern of disturbance more so than men
- Women with BD are far more likely to have a drinking disorder than men
A mental health program that is geared to women will acknowledge these core differences in treatment planning for BD.
Outpatient versus Residential Mental Health Treatment
When considering the level of care desired, and the services sought, there are different types of mental health gateways for women. There are gender-specific treatment centers that are designed for women, both outpatient and residential.
Outpatient: Generally, an outpatient program will provide varying levels of care based on the severity of the mental health disorder being addressed. The woman will reside at home and then participate in therapy and other programming for a specified number of hours per week.
Residential: When a more intensive level of care is indicated, the residential program provides housing for a specified length of time. Programming is more individualized and focused, and round-the-clock support and monitoring is provided.
These different programs may include:
- Traditional mental health program. These programs provide the core treatment elements of medication and psychotherapy.
- Gender specific wellness retreat. A retreat offers a short-term residential program, often located in a highly desirable setting that enhances feelings of serenity. Holistic treatment elements predominate, but therapy sessions are often included.
- Concierge services for women. Some programs offer a menu of spa-like amenities from which to select for the benefit of mental wellness. These might include massage therapy, acupuncture, and IV vitamin therapy, in addition to psychotherapy.
Mental Health Hope Provides Information About Treatment Options and Services
Mental Health Hope is an online resource for identifying specialized mental health gateways for women. The knowledgeable and compassionate team at Mental Health Hope understands that, as women, there are services and accommodations sought for achieving optimum mental health wellness. Our team will listen to your needs and preferences, then offer free, confidential guidance toward locating a treatment center that is perfect for you. For individualized assistance, please reach out to Mental Health Hope today at (877) 967-9274.