What are Women’s Issues?
Women’s issues represent a broad scope of mental health concerns and conditions that women may face at some point in their lives. Some are specific to women while others can affect both men and women, but women may experience these concerns differently than men do. It’s important to recognize the seriousness of these issues in women’s lives and the impact they can have on a woman’s well-being. Understanding these issues allows women to seek help to deal with their mental health conditions so they can improve their quality of life and find relief from emotional suffering.
There are many types of issues that women can face today, and some of the most prominent concerns include:
- Depression – More than just feeling sad, depression is a chronic illness that can plague a woman for a particular period or can be ongoing for her entire life. Depression affects the mind as well as the body. Depression has many emotional and physical symptoms, and in severe cases, women may experience suicidal thoughts. Some of the most common signs of depression are feeling hopeless, lack of motivation, trouble sleeping or sleeping too much, isolating oneself socially, irritability, and an overall sadness that persists no matter what a person does.
- Anxiety – Everyone experiences feelings of anxiety in their lives, whether it’s worrying about an upcoming social situation or feeling nervous about public speaking. In most people. these feelings are normal. For other people, however, anxiety disorder can be all-consuming and debilitating. Women who suffer from anxiety disorders can find carrying out even the simplest daily tasks to be overwhelming and they spend much of their days in a state of stress and panic. The most common anxiety symptoms are obsessive thoughts, constantly feeling nervous or on edge, racing heart, difficulty breathing, sleep problems, and rumination about past traumatic events.
- Eating Disorders – When people think of eating disorders they typically think of anorexia and bulimia, however, there are many other types of eating disorders including over-eating, binge eating, and orthorexia. Eating disorders go deeper than just revolving around what a person eats. The issues that lead to an eating disorder can be ingrained in a person’s beliefs about themselves from as early as childhood. When a woman suffers from an eating disorder, it’s common for her to have low self-worth, experience feelings of depression, social isolation, anxiety around eating and weight gain, and have obsessive thoughts about food.
- Postpartum Depression – A form of clinical depression, postpartum depression occurs after childbirth. Postpartum depression can begin immediately following birth or can take some time to present develop. In some women, it can subside in as short as few weeks while others may struggle for years, especially if they do not receive help. The severity of postpartum depression spans a wide spectrum, from mild sadness to postpartum psychosis. The most prevalent symptoms of postpartum depression include loss of appetite, low energy and motivation levels, irritability, anxiety, lack of bonding with the baby, and sleeplessness.
- Bipolar Disorder – Formerly known as manic-depression, bipolar disorder is a mood disorder caused by the brain. Bipolar disorder can begin suddenly or develop slowly over time. It is characterized by severe mood swings from high highs to low lows, or between mania and depression. While mood swings are normal for everyone, suffering from bipolar disorder may be crippling and make carrying out normal daily tasks seem impossible. When a person has bipolar disorder, they may experience several mood cycles each year, while other’s moods may change from depression to mania daily, which is known as rapid-cycling.
- Borderline Personality – Borderline personality disorder is a mental health condition characterized by negative thoughts and disturbances. The emotional suffering caused by borderline personality disorder makes it difficult for a person to live a “normal” life and even the smallest setback in a day can seem catastrophic and overwhelming. Women who have borderline personality disorder experience feelings of fear, paranoia, reckless behavior, irritability, depression, thoughts of suicide or self-harm, and violent outbursts.
- Domestic Violence – There are many types of domestic violence, some of which can take place in childhood and others which a woman may face in her current situation. Domestic violence may be emotional, physical, verbal, or psychological. Some of the most common ways that domestic violence presents itself are through name-calling, stalking, violence, humiliation, and manipulation by the abuser. When a woman is in an abusive relationship, she may feel worthless, depressed, isolated or anxious. Women who are in violent or abusive relationships often come to believe that they deserve to be abused or that it’s their fault.
- Sexual Abuse – Sexual abuse can take many forms, from sexual harassment to rape, but the underlying thread is that the abuser uses sexual activity as a way to exert power over their victim. Women who have suffered from sexual abuse may often blame themselves, thinking that the abuse is their fault for dressing a certain way, behaving a certain way, drinking too much, or engaging in other behaviors that they perceive to have caused the abuse to happen. Women who have been sexually abused often experience depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), have difficulty forming relationships, may feel unsafe in future sexual situations, and may even have suicidal thoughts.
- Discrimination – Throughout history women have experienced many forms of oppression, and many of these sexist or discriminatory practices continue today. Women may struggle with equal treatment and pay in the workplace, sexual harassment, derogatory comments from men, feeling unsafe in certain situations, and general feelings of oppression. When a woman is discriminated against or treated unfairly, it can take its toll, mentally, over time. Women may come to believe that they deserve this type of treatment and may have feelings of hopelessness, anxiety, and depression after experiencing persistent gender discrimination.
- Hormonal Changes – While every woman experiences hormonal changes throughout her life, some women can struggle with these changes and experience both mental and physical difficulties as a result. The most significant hormonal changes that women experience are puberty, pregnancy and the postpartum period, and menopause. Many women struggle with the physical and emotional changes that take place in their bodies during each of these hormonal phases and may experience mood changes that are more drastic than what is considered to be normal. The emotional challenges that occur with hormonal changes leave many women susceptible to anxiety and depression.
- Infertility – Infertility can be a devastating experience for women who are trying to get pregnant. Most women assume they will be able to get pregnant when they are ready, yet this not the reality for many women, resulting in feelings of despair, hopelessness, and blame. It’s common for women who are struggling with infertility to experience depression, emotional trauma, feelings of worthlessness, guilt, and jealousy or resentment.
- Low Self Esteem/Self Worth – Many women experience low self-esteem at some point in their lives, but for others, this is a more serious concern. Self-esteem issues often have deep roots that may be traced back to childhood, an abusive relationship, or bullying. When a woman experiences self-esteem issues she may experience obsessive negative thoughts, feelings of being unloved, helplessness, feeling unwanted, insecurity, and may be attracted to destructive relationships that validate these feelings. These feelings associated with low self-esteem can add to an ongoing cycle of shame and self-loathing that is difficult to break without seeking help.
Why Seek Therapy for Women’s Issues?
These women’s issues can have serious emotional, physical, and mental health effects that run deeper than what’s considered to be normal. They vary in severity from mild to extreme, and in many cases women are not able to cope with these issues on their own. Therapy pairs women with an experienced professional who can assist them in coming to terms with their unique issues and help them seek the treatment they need to improve their health and mental well-being.
Treatment Options for Women’s Issues
Depending on the issue and the individual circumstances of each woman, there are a variety of treatments available for women’s issues. These may include talk therapy, medication, or a combination of the two, which is often the most effective approach for many women’s mental health issues. There are also many alternative therapies which can be useful for many women. Some of the main types of therapy for treating women’s issues include:
- Psychotherapy – Women’s issues are often treated with psychotherapy, which is essentially talk therapy or counseling. Psychotherapy may take place with a psychologist, psychiatrist, or other mental health professional. The goal of talk therapy is allowing women to understand their underlying issues, the concerns or mental health conditions they are currently facing, and to give them tools and strategies for changing their behaviors or dealing with painful experiences.
- Behavioral Therapy – There are several different types of behavioral therapy and cognitive-behavior therapy (CBT) is one of the most effective forms of therapy for treating women’s issues. With CBT, women focus on identifying the emotional thought patterns they have that lead them to feelings of anxiety, depression, and contribute to low self-esteem and eating disorders. CBT techniques teach women to question their thinking patterns and learn to change them to be more positive and realistic.
- Medication – Many women’s issues are treatable with medical intervention. This may be as simple as taking a sedative for a short period to help with sleeplessness or may involve several medications taken on an ongoing basis, such as mood-stabilizing drugs, antidepressants, or anti-psychotic medications to manage a mental illness. There are a wide range of drugs available, and everyone has unique combination and dosages that is optimal for them. Working with a doctor or psychiatrist will help each woman to find what’s right for her.
- Alternative Therapies – There are many types of therapy that are excellent as complementary therapies to traditional treatment plans. Some common types of supplementary therapies are meditation, diet and exercise, creative therapy, biofeedback, hypnosis, and social support.
What to Look for in a Therapist
The most important thing for women to remember when seeking help for any mental, physical, or emotional issue is that they are not alone. There are counselors in any city across the country, as well as medical doctors and online therapists who can assist a woman in coping with or overcoming an issue that she struggles with. Deciding to seek therapy is an essential first step in healing that women should feel proud of.
When looking for a therapist to work with, it’s important to find someone who is a good personality match, so women feel comfortable opening up and being themselves in their sessions. Therapists for women’s issues don’t need to be women themselves. Male therapists are just as capable of providing treatment and counseling, so the most important consideration for a woman to make is whether she feels comfortable with a therapist before beginning treatment. In some cases, this may require meeting several therapists before finding the right fit.
Location is another factor to consider when looking for a therapist. For therapy to be effective it requires a commitment, and if it’s inconvenient or difficult to get to a therapist’s office it will decrease the likelihood of attending sessions on a regular basis.
When looking for a therapist, it’s important for women to look for practitioners who have an area of focus related to their specific issues. Most therapists will specialize in one or more areas, so you can seek out help from someone trained in eating disorders, sexual abuse, or mental illness. Finding a therapist whose professional focus aligns with your specific issues improves the chances of an effective therapeutic experience.
Further Resources for Women’s Issues
For women facing any of these or any other mental or emotional issues it can be extremely beneficial to do further reading on their particular concerns or to seek the support of other women who have similar experiences.
If you are new to therapy, some experienced professional therapists have compiled tips for how to get the most benefit from therapy sessions. This information will help you prepare for your first visit, answer some of the questions you have, and ease some of your anxiety about beginning therapy.
Look for online resources, blogs, or-e-books that provide tools and strategies that are useful in helping women come to terms with their issues, learn about their treatment options, and begin to seek therapy.