Women's Mental Health

Women’s Mental Health: How to Recognize Anxiety and Depression and Where to Get Help 

In the United States, women are 50% more likely than men to develop generalized anxiety disorders or depression. It is critical to know the risk factors for developing anxiety and depression and the sign and symptoms of anxiety and depression. If symptoms are present for longer than two weeks and they cause a disruption in day-to-day life, it would be beneficial to see a psychiatrist or psychologist for help. Here at Dr. Messina and Associates, we have trained psychologists, psychiatrists, and therapists who are trained to help.

 

Anxiety

What is Anxiety

Anxiety is generally a normal reaction experienced in response to stress. It is often a feeling of fear, worry, or nervousness about a situation. A healthy level of anxiety can help you cope with a stressful situation, and when the stressful situation ends, the feeling of anxiety disappears. However, anxiety can also be a mental health problem if it interferes with your day-to-day activities. Anxiety may also present itself in a sudden feeling of fear or terror when no threat is present. 

Types of Anxiety Disorders

There are many types of anxiety disorders. The most common anxiety disorders experienced by women are generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social phobia, and specific phobia.

Generalized anxiety disorder is a mental health condition that causes people to worry continuously about day-to-day issues, such as family or money, with the consuming fear of experiencing the worst-case scenario in the situation. Generalized anxiety disorder can prevent you from accomplishing your day-to-day tasks as the worrisome thoughts and feelings are consuming. 

Panic disorder is another form of anxiety where people experience feelings of a sudden attack of terror when no terror is present. Panic disorders are a mental health condition where panic attacks are experienced frequently. Panic attacks often cause fear of losing control over a situation or a fear of impending doom. 

Social phobias, or social anxiety disorder, occurs when people are continuously anxious about normal or common social situations. 

Anxiety can also present itself in specific phobias. A specific phobia is an intense fear of a specific thing, such as objects, heights, or rain, that does not present any danger. People find that facing these phobias causes them to have severe anxiety. 

 

Risk Factors for Anxiety

The general risk factors that can cause anxiety disorders include exposure to negative life events or stressful environments in childhood, a history of anxiety, or some physical conditions such as heart arrhythmias, overconsumption of caffeine, or medication side effects. 

Women are twice as likely as men to experience generalized anxiety disorder or panic disorder. This might be due to risk factors such as: 

Signs and Symptoms of Anxiety

The symptoms of a generalized anxiety disorder that can be experienced include fatigue, restlessness, feeling on edge, difficulty concentrating, uncontrollable feelings of worry, and difficulty sleeping. If any of these symptoms are experienced almost daily for over six months, a generalized anxiety disorder may be the condition. 

Women may also experience physical symptoms related to anxiety, such as weakness, rapid heart rate, nausea, dizziness, or hot flashes. The symptoms may cause anxiety to be worse or ever hide the reality that anxiety is the problem causing the physical symptoms. 

Depression

What is Depression

Depression is another very common mental health condition that women experience. Depression is diagnosed when the symptoms of depression are present for longer than two weeks. Depression can be a serious illness because it can affect how a person sleeps, how they feel about themselves, and how they feel about the world, and they are unable to enjoy life. People with depression are unable to pull themselves out of a depressed state without help. 

Types of Depression

Many depression disorders affect both men and women. Major depressive disorder, which is very common, affects a person’s ability to eat, sleep, work, and enjoy everyday life. Dysthymia is a diagnosis given when depression lasts for more than two years. However, the symptoms are not as severe as they are in major depressive disorder. Psychotic depression occurs when depression symptoms are experienced as a result of a form of psychosis, such as hallucinations. Lastly, seasonal affective disorder occurs when depression is experienced only during the winter months due to the lack of natural light. 

There are also types of depression that only women experience due to changes in hormones. Premenstrual dysphoric disorder occurs when a woman experiences extreme irritability, anger, sadness, appetite changes, or depressed moods that are more extreme than mild PMS symptoms. Perinatal depression can occur when a woman is pregnant (prenatal depression) or after delivery (postpartum depression). Feelings experienced as a result of perinatal depression include anxiety, fatigue, and extreme sadness that can make it difficult for a mother to complete daily tasks as well as care for themselves and their infant. Perimenopausal depression can occur in the perimenopause phase of a woman’s life.

Risk Factors for Depression

Many risk factors can increase a woman’s risk for depression. First, those who have a family history of depression can increase their risk. Brain changes and brain chemistry can also change and cause depression. Experiencing stressful life events, such as losing a loved one, abuse, or even having children to care for, can also increase a woman’s risk for depression. Dealing with medical problems or physical pain can also lead to depression. The hormone changes that women experience throughout their lifetime put women at a higher risk for developing depression.  

Women are also at a higher risk for depression based on their reproductive health. Specifically, women who experience miscarriage, have difficulties becoming pregnant, birth multiples, have preterm labor and delivery, have birth complications, or have a baby in a NICU, are at an increased risk for developing perinatal depression. 

Signs and Symptoms of Depression

The signs and symptoms of depression include feeling sad and crying more than usual, having low energy levels, and experiencing insomnia or oversleeping. Symptoms can also include a loss of appetite or overeating, being easily annoyed or angered, difficulty concentrating, and losing interest in enjoyable activities. Symptoms can also include feeling hopeless and worthless, having thoughts of suicide or intentional injury, or physical symptoms such as headaches or stomach pain.

The symptoms of postpartum depression include feelings of anger, crying, feeling disconnected from the new baby and loved ones, worrying and doubting abilities to care for the new baby, and worrying that you could hurt the baby.

 

Getting Help

Most women find that seeing a psychologist or psychiatrist for psychotherapy can help treat their anxiety disorders or depression. The most common form of psychotherapy is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). This is a form of therapy that a psychologist can use to help treat anxiety by teaching different ways of thinking and reacting to the cause of anxiety. Cognitive-behavioral therapy can also be helpful for depression, as well as interpersonal therapy and problem-solving therapy. 

If CBT alone is not helping cure the anxiety disorder or depression, then a psychiatrist may prescribe medication. Many types of medication can help relieve the symptoms of anxiety, and antidepressants can be prescribed to treat depression.

Here at Dr. Messina and Associates, our compassionate team of professionals are qualified to help you at our Flower Mound, Texas, and Southlake, Texas, offices. Our Psychologists, Psychiatrists, and Counselors specialize in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), psychological testing, and medication management for a variety of emotional and behavioral health needs. All services are available in-person and online (telehealth). If you or a loved one are seeking help with mental health, we are here to help.

Author
Dr. Michael Messina

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