Indian women stand as the epitome of what a Jill of all trades is, often working under constant stress with little regard given to their discomfort. Larger sections of women from various socio-economic classes in India are now working beyond their homes. This neither relieves them from their domestic duties nor from their work roles, making them more susceptible to developing mental health issues.
According to the National Mental Health Survey of India. 2015-16, one in every six Indians needs mental health help. The survey had also found that mental illnesses affect men and women differently, with some illnesses like anxiety found more common in women, and some unique to women like perinatal depression.
It is important to identity when someone is drifting from a normal state of mind, and treat is as no less significant than a physical ailment. Listed below are the mental health disorders that are most common among women.
According to the American Psychological Association(APA), the most common mental health problem in women is depression - with twice as many women developing depression than men. The 2017 study even noted that one in every nine women above the age of 18 had experienced at least one major depressive episode that year. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has predicted that Unipolar Depression will be the second leading cause of global disability burden by 2020, and it is twice as common in women. A sudden lack of interest, lack of sexual drive, disturbed sleep, changing appetite and low self-esteem are some symptoms of depression. According to the WHO the burden of depression is 50% higher for females than males, and Indians are reportedly among the world's most depressed. In fact, WHO also finds depression to be the most important precursor to suicide.
A stressful life event may cause one to experience palpitations, restlessness, apprehension, trembling, nausea, breathlessness, and vomiting. If these symptoms persist, and start occurring more frequently, it could turn into an anxiety disorder. The APA states that generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder are twice as common in women than in men, and are among the most common mental health disorders experienced by women. According to a 2015 report by WHO, the total estimated number of people living with anxiety disorders in the world is 264 million, with numbers increasing ever since. A study showed that women have greater severity of the symptoms and often experience depression along with the anxiety creating a comorbidity (simultaneous occurrence of multiple conditions).
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Post a traumatic event, women are twice as likely to develop post-traumatic stress disorder as men are. The effects of estrogen on memory, behavior, cognition, and emotion cause women to be more susceptible to developing PTSD. According to APA, women are more likely to experience hypervigilance, depressive symptoms and trouble feeling emotions. The Kashmir Mental Health Survey – 2015 showed that being female, over 55 years of age, being widowed, divorced or separated and exposure to multiple traumatic events were significant predictors led to mental health disorders like PTSD. Moreover, the consequences of gender based violence are devastating leading to lifelong emotional distress in the form of PTSD.
Obsessions with food, body weight, and one’s shape can often be symptoms to a larger and more serious problem, sometimes even being fatal. Binge eating disorder, anorexia nervosa, and bulimia nervosa the eating disorders that greatly affect females from when they turn 18. According to the National Comorbidity Survey Replication (NCS-R), the prevalence of bulimia nervosa was five times higher among females (0.5%) than males (0.1%). Research on eating disorders identifies parental overprotection and high control as a risk factor for anorexia and bulimia. According to a study, this culture plays a strong influence on building up of an eating disorder in India with at least 50% of patients having a psychiatric comorbidity, with depression being the most common.
While more men die from suicide, research has shown that women attempt suicide 2-3 times more often than men. In India especially, the causes of attempted suicide are numerous. A study by the Indian Journal of Psychiatry showed that one of the main obstacles to the prevention of suicidal behavior in women is the belief that suicide is a male problem and not accounting for various social, economic and cultural factors in female suicidal behavior. It was found that girls from nuclear families and women married off at a young age were at a higher risk for attempted suicide and self‑harm, with the peak rate being between the age of 18 and 29. Other causes for increased suicide rate amongst women include dowry disputes (2.9%), love affairs (15.4%), illegitimate pregnancies (10.3) and quarrels with spouse or parents (10.3%).