Covid 19 Impact On Women’s Mental Health
Pandemic has hit the world like a massive storm disrupting all our lives. Everyone has to face a battle with the onset of this devilishly versatile disease that is not physically affecting us but has a major impact on our mental health. Pandemic has caused a rise in mental illness. It has skyrocketed especially in women than men.
Women are always expected to give more importance to her family. We live in the 21st century, still, women struggle to get equality in several substantial areas such as the burden of responsibility, lower wages, societal expectations, and some of the career choices where they are made to feel less deserving. Covid 19 has not only affected our lifestyle but with the days of quarantine increased the issues of anxiety, depression, stress among women also increased due to family’s expectations, juggling between work and household chores, domestic violence, and emotional and mental trauma.
We have come a long way when it comes to equality for women, however, there’s still a long journey to cover. Women are given less opportunity and lower wages which demotivate them to achieve what they deserve. The pandemic made their life full of misery causing women mental illness thrice as likely to occur compared to men. They suffer in many aspects like keeping up with the family and society’s expectations, workload plus burden of household causing anxiety, loss of appetite, inability to sleep, and trouble completing everyday tasks.
With the onset of the pandemic, we have come across a rise in domestic violence. With this pandemic, a realization also occurred that even home is not always safe.
When women do not get enough support be it domestic or emotional then the toll falls on the mental health of women. Women have a higher risk of anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Post covid 19 requires attention for mental health. Those women who already had a history of depression and anxiety now have a severe case of depression.
Does Gender Matter When It Comes to Mental Illness?
Mental health does not only belong to a particular gender; however biological causes play a vital role in developing mental illness in women’s mental health. Women have low serotonin levels than men as the chemical gets absorbed rapidly resulting in mood swings. Serotonin plays a crucial role in developing mental illness. Low serotonin levels promote mood swings. Females are considered more prone to hormonal changes than males.
Women must face a lot of hurdles and life that can result in depression, mood swings, and anxiety. Unipolar disorder, the post-stress traumatic disorder is a common mental illness that is likely to affect more women than men. Now, what is unipolar disorder?
The unipolar disorder also known as major depressive disorder (MDD) is a mental disorder where a person faces low self-esteem, loss of interest in normal fun activities, low energy, and pain without any cause for a period of at least two weeks.
An eating disorder affects ten times more women than it does men. Young women are the most susceptible to an eating disorder;
Mental Health: Women’s Symptoms Are Also Different
Suffering from mental health is not gender biased, the Male and Female body shares common mental health diagnoses, the symptoms, and subsequently, the treatment could be different.
For example, usually, a man faces issues at the workplace; the major reason for depression is likely to be job-related. On the other hand, a woman suffers majorly physical issues. Like fatigue or low appetite, sleep disorder, and insomnia. Unlike their depressed male counterparts, with the help of alcohol, some women tend to develop problems, within a few years of the onset of depression. For moral and mental support women become more dependent on religious and emotional outlets to break the symptoms of depression compared to men, who often find relief through an intense workout, sports, and other hobbies. Joining yoga, meditation classes, and rehabilitation center would be advised to Women to get themselves out of the unhealthy habits of alcohol and drugs.
Schizophrenia works differently with men and women, as women more often experience depression and thought impairment, while men are more likely to become apathetic and socially isolated. Schizophrenia typically responds faster to antipsychotic medication in women’s bodies. Women are found with more mood symptoms, which can complicate the diagnostic process and may require a prescription for mood stabilizers in addition to antipsychotic medications.
Mental Health: Why the Gender Differences Matters?
How does a female body function, what different responses to mental illness? The answers may lie in:
Biological influences: Hormonal fluctuations are known to play a role in mood and depression. The hormone estrogen has a positive effect on the brain, it protects schizophrenic women from severe symptoms during certain phases of their menstrual cycles and maintaining the structure of neurons in the brain, protecting against the aspects of Alzheimer’s. On the less positive factor, women produce less mood stabilizer serotonin and synthesize it more slowly than men, which may lead to higher rates of depression. The genetic makeup of women is also believed to play a role in the development of such neurological disorders as Alzheimer’s.
Socio-cultural influences: In gender equality, women still face challenges in building up their status, position, socio-economic power, and independence which can lead to depression and other disorders. Women are expected to be perfect and selfless thus they are the primary caregivers for family and children, and it is estimated that they also take care of 80 percent of chronically ill elders. Girls also get affected with lots of issues from a tender age as they tend to become dissatisfied with their bodies at puberty, a reaction that is linked to depression and anxiety. Girl’s faces sexual harassment more often than boys, and one in five women will experience rape or attempted rape, which leads to depression and panic disorder, sometimes it leads to suicidal attempts.
Behavioral influences: Some people think that there is a higher rate of a woman reporting mental health disturbances than men. Women are more active in getting diagnosed with depression which can be treated by administering antipsychotic drugs. In our society women feel unsafe sometimes to open with their issues and problems and that is why she choose a general practitioner for her mental health concern than a specialist. On the other hand, men are seen to be comfortable with a doctor that specializes in mental health. However, women are sometimes afraid to report physical violence and abuse.
Depression in Women: Understanding the Gender Gap
Women are more prone to get diagnosed with depression than men at any stage of life.
Depression can occur at any age. Sometimes you feel depressed and your mood changes without any reason. This feeling may occur due to normal hormonal changes. Hormonal changes are not alone responsible for the cause of depression but other biological factors like inherited traits, and personal life circumstances and experiences also have a severe effect on your mental health. Depression on women can happen due to several factors, some of them are listed below:
When we grow from being a teenager to an adult our body also changes. Some hormonal changes can make girls develop depression. Fluctuating hormones does not always mean depression, it can be a temporary mood swing as well. So, do not worry as puberty does not alone cause depression.
Puberty is often associated with other experiences that can play a role in depression, such as:
- Emerging sexuality and identity issues
- Conflicts with parents
- Increasing pressure to achieve in school, sports, or other areas of life
The depression rate is slightly high in females than in males as girls reach puberty before boys which can cause depression at an early stage than boys. This depression gender gap may seem never-ending, and it will not end throughout the lifespan.
Menstruation can have a severe impact on some females themselves. Having premenstrual syndrome (PMS), symptoms like abdominal bloating, breast tenderness, headache, anxiety, irritability, and experiencing the blues are minor and short-lived.
These minors’ issues and symptoms can sometimes cause a major problem in their life. Some females have to go through severe disabling symptoms that can not only have a negative impact on their health but also disrupt the calm in their life, studies, jobs, relationships. PMS can cross path with the premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) that is a type of depression in which treatment is required.
The exact contact between them is blurry. However, some possible cyclical changes in estrogen, progesterone and other hormones can disbalance the function of brain chemicals like serotonin that control mood. Inherited traits, life experiences, and other factors appear to play a role.
Pregnancy changes a woman completely into a new person. During pregnancy, women body goes through major hormonal changes that can severely affect their mood. Pregnancy doesn’t limit itself from causing depression, some other factors can also occur during pregnancy and attempting to be pregnant.
- Lifestyle or work changes or other life stressors
- Relationship problems
- Stopping use of antidepressant medications
- Lack of social support
- Unintended or unwanted pregnancy
- Previous episodes of depression, postpartum depression, or PMDD
Postpartum depression should be the talk of every town. However, we sometimes do not understand what a new mother is going through. We as a society have made some strong beliefs that can mislead people and disrupt the lives of new moms. When a woman gives birth, her body goes through a lot which causes severe mood swings like being sad, angry, and irritable, experience crying spells and it is normal to be like this. This feeling termed baby blues is quite normal among new moms and tends to fade away within a week or two. However, if the symptoms and the feeling of depression do not go away then it might be an indication of postpartum depression, particularly if signs and symptoms include:
- Crying more often than usual
- Low self-esteem or feeling like you are a bad mom
- Anxiety or feeling numb
- Trouble sleeping, even when your baby is sleeping
- Problems with daily functioning
- Inability to care for your baby
- Thoughts of harming your baby
- Thoughts of suicide
Postpartum depression is a serious medical condition requiring prompt treatment. It occurs in about 10 to 15 percent of women. It is thought to be associated with:
Major hormonal fluctuations that influence mood
- The responsibility of caring for a newborn
- Predisposition to mood and anxiety disorders
- Pregnancy and birth complications
- Breastfeeding problems
- Infant complications or special needs
- Poor social support
Perimenopause and menopause
Perimenopause is the transition to menopause and can involve serious risk of depression due to hormone levels fluctuating erratically. Early menopause or post-menopause can cause a rise in depression as at that time your estrogen levels are significantly reduced.
Some women are most likely to experience bothersome menopausal symptoms and do not develop depression. But these factors may increase the risk:
- Interrupted or poor sleep
- Anxiety or a history of depression
- Stressful life events
- Weight gain or a higher body mass index (BMI)
- Menopause at a younger age
- Menopause caused by surgical removal of the ovaries
- Life circumstances and culture
Women go through many hurdles and this higher rate of depression in women is just not because of biology alone. A woman’s life is full of ups and downs. A woman has certain life experiences which can result in cultural stress that can be an addition to their problems in life. Some factors that may increase the risk of depression in women include:
- Unequal power and status
- Work overload
- Sexual or physical abuse
Recognizing depression and seeking treatment
Recognizing the signs and symptoms of depression can be challenging. However, if diagnosed, Depression is treatable. Depression can be overwhelming and frustrating for a woman. If you see any signs and symptoms, then seek professional help. Although every individual experiences different symptoms, below are some common signs and symptoms listed that can help you to reach out to someone:
- Ongoing feelings of sadness, guilt, or hopelessness
- Loss of interest in things you once enjoyed
- Significant changes in your sleep pattern, such as trouble falling or staying asleep or sleeping too much
- Fatigue or unexplained pain or other physical symptoms without an apparent cause
- Problems concentrating or remembering things
- Changes in appetite leading to significant weight loss or weight gain
- Physical aches and pains
- Feeling as though life isn’t worth living, or having thoughts of suicide
Not sure how to get treatment? Consider turning to your primary care provider first — for example, your family doctor, internist, nurse practitioner, obstetrician, or gynecologist. If needed, your primary care provider can refer you to a mental health professional who specializes in diagnosing and treating depression.
Remember, depression is both common and treatable. If you think you are depressed, do not hesitate to seek help.
How to Cope Up with Your Mental Health During a Pandemic?
Life can be a beautiful rainbow sometimes and sometimes it can be chaos and misery like a storm ruining everything. When time is tough try to be calmer and relax. Indulging yourself in self-care is the best thing that you can do for yourself. When life is chaotic then keeping things slow and steady will make you strong to overcome it. If you have a full-time job then take a break, if you are a full-time student then trying new things might put you at ease. Self-care takes a backseat in our life with all the worries and stress in the front taking a toll on our mental health. With the trauma of this pandemic, it is crucial to indulge in some health care to keep your body and mind healthy. We should learn to manage ourselves in tough times to overcome all hurdles life throws at us. Pandemic feels like a marathon which makes a runner feel like it is never-ending. So why not take care of ourselves so that we can finish this marathon that life gave us with all our mirth and come out stronger.
Indulge yourself in some new fun activity that you always wanted to do but never got a chance to do. You can learn cooking, dancing, music or even some art. It can provide you with mental peace. Inculcating activities like exercise, listening to music, talking to a therapist, journaling, and developing a consistent sleep routine will help you feel a little better both physically and mentally. Covid 19 has given us enormous grief, isolation, and loss but we have also learned the importance of unity, community, and solidarity are in these trying times (socially distanced, of course).
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