Mental illness can affect anyone, regardless of their age or gender. However, there are significant differences in how certain mental health conditions affect men versus women. Many of the risks involved with mental illnesses are, in fact, gender-specific.
Why Would Gender Matter in Mental Health?
Gender is relevant regarding mental health disorders because mental health treatment considers all factors of an individual’s lifestyle. A gender-specific approach to mental health acknowledges biological and social aspects of a person’s life, especially identifying the critical interaction between both factors. Gender is an inevitable determinant of mental health and mental illness.
By utilizing a gendered approach to treatment, mental health professionals can offer clients appropriate and compassionate treatment therapy options. There are numerous benefits to these types of treatment programs.
For example, it is widely known and accepted that women are more likely to seek treatment than men and are more likely to discuss their distress. Gender matters because it references the multitude of social and cultural differences and the many biological differences that play a role in how a person experiences and understands their own mental state.
It is essential that mental health facilities utilize the practice of gender-specific care when necessary so that a client may feel empowered and inspired through their mental health recovery journey.
Anxiety and Anxiety Disorders
Anxiety is something that everyone experiences from time to time. It might be challenging to know when your anxiety is too much, especially if it has always been a source of great tension for you.
Anxiety disorders are some of the most common and chronic mental health conditions. Several anxiety disorders, such as generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and panic disorder, are more frequent among women compared to men.
Women are naturally more prone to experience stress, which directly increases feelings of anxiety. Brain chemistry, alongside strong hormone fluctuations, contributes to easier activation and prolongs the fight-or-flight response in women.
It is also important to note that women experience more significant pressure to fill several gender roles based on societal and cultural demands than men. Pregnancy, postpartum, and menopause also contribute to increased risks for anxiety and developing anxiety-related disorders.
Depression and Major Depressive Disorder (MDD)
Major depressive disorder (MDD) is another chronic mental illness that affects a large percentage of the world’s population. Depression is the most common mental health problem experienced by women.
Alongside anxiety, women are also more likely to experience major depressive disorder (MDD). Women are twice as likely to be diagnosed with depression compared to men.
The increased prevalence of depression in women is also known to correlate with hormonal changes, being that female hormone fluctuations increase the risk of triggering the development of depression. Societal and cultural demands are likely to play a role in the increased risks as well.
Substance Use and Addiction
While women are more likely to experience increased worry, men are more likely to cope with their mental distress with substance use. More men are in treatment programs to treat their substance use disorders than women.
Although substance use disorder (SUD) diagnosis is not gender-specific, men are more likely than women to use and abuse illicit drugs. Men are known to use substances more frequently and in larger quantities than females, which directly impacts the severity of their substance use disorder.
It is reported that men experience greater rates of alcohol use disorder, tobacco addiction, and marijuana addiction than women. This dynamic may partly be because men tend to be introduced to drugs and alcohol earlier than women, perhaps because of peer pressure. The rates of stimulant addiction remain similar between both genders.
Gender-Specific Risk Factors
While hormonal differences are one main contributor to why women are more susceptible to developing mental illness, gender-based roles, general stressors, and negative life experiences are crucial risk factors.
Gender-specific risk factors that primarily affect women may also include gender-based violence, the wage gap, income inequality, and low or subordinate social status.
Women tend to experience greater sexual violence, which may also affect an individual’s susceptibility to developing post-traumatic stress disorder and other experiences of trauma.
It is essential to understand that gender plays a critical role in developing mental illness. Gender must be considered during treatment, especially during recovery, as treatment is most effective when it is individualized and addresses the unique experiences and goals of the client.
Every person has different, unique needs that they seek from mental health treatment. Addressing gender differences is an excellent start in understanding how mental illness affects everyone differently.
Gender is a crucial determinant of mental health and mental illness, and it should not go unnoticed. There are significant differences regarding gender and the increased risks associated with developing any sort of mental health condition. Anxiety disorders and depression are conditions experienced more commonly by women than men. This difference is believed to be due to the result of the hormonal differences in women, especially regarding menstruation, pregnancy, and postnatal condition. On the other hand, men seem to experience greater severities in substance abuse and substance use disorders. West Coast Recovery Centers understands that it is crucial to acknowledge these gender susceptibilities and differences regarding mental health treatment. We offer gender-specific treatment programs that recognize biological factors and social and cultural factors that affect how a mental illness develops. For more information about the resources and treatment options we offer, please give us a call today at (760) 492-6509.