Can Anxiety and Depression be Signs of Mental Illness in Women?

Signs of mental illness in womenAll too often women’s mood disorders get brushed off as moodiness or irritability due to “that time of the month.” The role of women in many cultures still relegates the lioness’s share of work around the home – cooking, cleaning, laundry, childcare, etc. – to women despite also needing to work outside the home. Add in discrimination in the workplace, lower pay, and concerns for personal safety and it’s a small miracle that more women do not show signs of depression or anxiety, or worse.

Everyone experiences bad moods and has bad days. Having quirky fears or getting a case of nerves before stressful events is pretty normal too. How can you tell when you or someone you love has crossed the line, from just a case of “the blues” to clinical depression? Is your best friend just nervous, or does she have an actual anxiety disorder? Here are some basic questions that may help to tease apart normal habits or quirks from actual mental illness.

Depression in Women

Stress, hormones, or other life challenges can reach a tipping point where you feel overwhelmed for a period of time. How can you tell if you are dealing with depression, and not just a normal response to difficult situations? Let’s take a look at your whole week, and try to be objective.

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Anxiety in Women

Normal nervousness about things that trigger anxiety is an annoying but expectable part of life. Anxiety disorders can be truly debilitating. Diagnosing an anxiety disorder can begin with a careful examination of your last week or two.

Mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety are not merely inconvenient or uncomfortable. These disorders have a profound impact on functioning, making it incredibly hard to go to work, school or social events. Parenting can be affected, and friendships and romantic relationships can also become strained. Women struggling with untreated depression, for example, may have so little energy they will sleep for upwards of 18 hours a day. Untreated anxiety disorders can lead to agoraphobia – again, impacting nearly every aspect of a person’s life. And both anxiety and depression can be fatal, as the impact upon your thoughts can lead to believing that suicide is the only option.

For some women, being diagnosed with depression and/or anxiety can also lead to guilt and shame. When you are responsible for others, but struggle to feel normal or good about yourself, that feels like failure. Many women admit to feelings of guilt and shame for not taking better care of themselves and/or family members.

Feeling better may seem like an insurmountable challenge, but treatment can be truly life-changing. Therapeutic approaches such as Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) have been well researched and studies show very positive results. It is possible not only to survive, but to thrive despite being diagnosed with a mental illness like depression or anxiety.

Resources:
http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/generalized-anxiety-disorder/basics/symptoms/CON-20024562

https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/depression/index.shtml