Women and men are different not only in their obvious physical attributes, but also in their psychological makeup. They differ in the way they communicate, deal in relationships, express their feelings, and react to stress
Gender roles have been culturally prescribed through the prehistoric cultures to the more civilized societies. In hunter-gatherer societies, women were generally the gatherers of plant foods, small animal foods, fish, and learned to use dairy products while men hunted meat from large animals. In more recent history, the gender roles of women have changed greatly. Traditionally, middle-class women are typically involved in domestic tasks emphasizing child care. For poorer women, economic necessity compels them to seek employment outside the home.
In our country where gender roles are specified and many social traditions are prevalent that discriminate against women such as dowry, patriarchy etc. On the other end of spectrum in recent years there is a surge of working women. Thus, these issues are impacting a women’s psychological makeup.
Dr. Damanjit Kaur (MD Psychiatry)
Mental health is a term used to describe either a level of cognitive or emotional well-being or an absence of a mental disorder. Gender is a critical determinant of mental health and mental illness.
WOMEN'S MENTAL HEALTH: THE FACTS (WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION REPORT, 2001):
Depressive disorders account for close to 41.9% of the disability from neuropsychiatric disorders among women compared to 29.3% among men.
Leading mental health problems of the elderly are depression, organic brain syndromes, and dementias. A majority are women.
An estimated 80% of 50 million people affected by violent conflicts, civil wars, disasters, and displacement are women and children.
Lifetime prevalence rate of violence against women ranges from 16% to 50% At least one in five women suffers rape or attempted rape in their lifetime.
Why do women more prone to mental health issues as compared to men?
· Biological makeup
· Sociocultural reasons
· Violence and sexual abuse
· Genetic makeup
Women are subjected to fluctuating hormonal changes throughout their life, be it mensuration [PMS], in fact, studies showed that 3-8% of women suffer from PMS, childbirth or menopause. During adulthood women has to face lot of issues related to their reproductive health like, PCOD, unwanted pregnancies, infertility and lifestyle changes that happen even during a normal healthy pregnancy. Studies reported that 1 in 5 women in India suffer from post-partum depression and nearly 70% of women suffer from post-partum blues.
In our nation, >50% of the population lives in villages and small towns where women are under constant psychological pressure due to cultural reasons. for example, women are not allowed in the kitchen when they are on their periods. One of my patient was not allowed to even sleep on her own bed during the time she has her periods.
Violence and sexual abuse:
According to UN report, approx. 2/3 of married women in India are victims of domestic violence. Other problems women in India are exposed to, in the age group,15-39 years is beating, rape, dowry system, human trafficking etc.
It has been seen that a family link to depression is more commonly expressed in women than in men.
How depression in women differ from men?
Depression in women occur earlier, last longer, more likely to recur and more sensitive to seasonal change.
Women are more likely to experience guilt feelings and attempt suicide;
Women are more likely to be associated with anxiety, panic attacks and phobic symptoms.
How to live a mentally heathier life?
Engage in creative outlet
Find a self-calming skill
Practice mindfulness. In today’s world we all think too much and forget about the joy of just being. With mindfulness you can establish yourself in the present in order to touch the wonders of life that are available in that moment. Mindfulness also helps us to accept ourself and love ourself.
Keep stress and emotional triggers in check
Get a daily dose of sunlight
Develop a ‘wellness tool box’
Some of the tools are:
Spend some time in nature
List what you like about yourself. we all are different. Feeling good about yourself boost confidence.
Read a good book.
Watch a good funny movie/tv show.
Take a long hot bath
Play with the pet
Talk to friend/family face to face
Listen to music
Lastly, I would like to say that none of us are superhuman. We all get tired or overwhelmed by how we feel or when things don’t go to plan.
God has given a special gift to a woman to procreate, she gets pregnant, delivers and nurses the baby. thus, not only the reproductive health but also the emotional health of woman is very important. Since mentally healthy woman will rear up a healthy and wise child and house becomes a beautiful place to live in.
If things are too much overwhelming for you, please seek help from mental health professional for treatment and stick to the regime prescribed
Dr. Damanjit Kaur (MD Psychiatry)
Faith Hospital, Chandigarh