Recent studies have found that women are more susceptible to mental illnesses than men. The simplest reason behind this is that women are expected to fulfill more roles in society than men. Women also experience a lot of hormonal changes in their bodies that increase the possibility of common mental illnesses like depression and anxiety. It is important to take cognizance of any mental discomfort and hindrance in daily activities because of it. Ignoring these conditions could result in unnecessary prolonged suffering. Timely diagnosis of mental illnesses aids the process of healing to better mental health.
Women, traditionally, fulfill roles of caregivers, homemakers, family nutritionists, family supporters, the list is endless. This lays more emphasis on the fact that women who play such central part in relationships and society must be healthy themselves to undertake all their roles optimally.
In India, most women play the role of nurturers and caregivers; they care for their loved ones and the ailing in their families. Constantly caring for others results in neglecting self, which is the case with most women. 85% of the caregivers in the world are women and it has been found that women caring for patients of mental health are more prone to depression and anxiety themselves. It is very important to note that seeking help for mental health is as normal as visiting a doctor for a physical illness. Women's mental health is not given enough importance, and it is alarming to note how many women dealing with these issues undiagnosed professionally because they are afraid of confiding in anyone.
Depression and anxiety can surface at any age for different reasons. Hormonal changes in the body are one of the most common reasons. Depression during puberty, postpartum and menopause affects 1 in 5 women. Even though depression and anxiety experienced during hormonal changes is temporary, the possibilities of depression in the later stages of life increase, if undiagnosed and not treated on time. Older women above the age of 80 are at a risk of falling into depression too but for different reasons. Poor physical health, lack of companionship, loneliness, lack of financial support, bereavement are some common reasons recorded for depression in old age.
Apart from biological factors there are many psycho-social factors that cause depression and anxiety. Indian women adjust within a patriarchal society and have to grapple with being suppressed. Most women are not financially secure and are dictated by their families. There are unrealistic expectations placed on them and are looked down upon when they are unable to fulfill these expectations. Such pressure and traumatic experiences can invoke feelings of worthlessness leading to depression and anxiety. Self awareness and care is of paramount importance here. Seeking professional help to get through these trying times can not only make you stronger but equip you better to handle these stressful situations.
Although women have a higher percentage of mental illnesses than men, they are more likely to overcome these illnesses by being vocal about their feelings. Women are more likely to seek help from different support systems. Mental illnesses are very debilitating and make life bitter. It is possible to live a healthier fulfilling life. Just reach out in the right direction and help people you know suffering from mental illnesses seek help too.