Mental health is a topic that attracts a lot of discussion these days, and that’s a good thing. Yet, the conversation surrounding women’s mental health specifically is often rife with misconceptions, stereotypes, and outright myths. These misunderstandings can perpetuate stigma and make it difficult for women to seek the support and treatment they need. In this blog post, we aim to debunk some of these myths and offer evidence-based perspectives on women’s mental health. And above all else, help you to feel less alone, no matter what you’re going through.
Myth 1: Hormones Are the Main Cause of Mental Health Issues in Women
Whether it’s happened to you, a friend, or you’ve seen it on TV, you’ve more than likely witnessed someone tell a woman, “You’re just hormonal.” This dismissal of women’s mental health is all too common. And whilst hormones do play a role, it’s time we put this reductive explanation under the microscope.
The Truth: Whilst hormones do play a role in women’s mental health, they are not the sole factor. A complex interplay of biological, psychological, and social factors contribute to mental health for anyone (not just for women).
According to the Black Dog Institute, whilst hormonal changes can influence mood and emotional well-being, they are just one piece of a larger puzzle that includes genetic predisposition, early life experiences and traumas, and current circumstances. If you’re feeling out of sorts, hormonal factors could be aggravating your emotions, but that doesn’t mean they should be dismissed.
Myth 2: Women Are More Emotional, So They’re More Likely to Have Mental Health Issues
Do you ever feel pressured to mask your emotions for fear of being labelled ‘too emotional’? Maybe you’ve been led to believe that being emotional means you’re more prone to mental health issues? The perception that women are more emotional, and therefore more susceptible to mental health problems, is not only unfair but also misleading.
The Truth: Emotional expression should not be conflated with emotional instability or poor mental health. Whilst research shows that women may express emotions differently than men, this does not automatically make them more susceptible to mental health problems.
Mental health is complex and can’t be boiled down to emotional differences between genders. Moreover, the stereotype that women are ‘overly emotional’ is harmful and can deter them from seeking help for legitimate mental health concerns. The bottom line: You deserve support, so reach out! A qualified counsellor or psychologist is a judgement-free expert in mental health who can help you to navigate what you’re going through. By the way, emotional expression leads to less mental health problems than emotional repression! It is the repression of emotions that leads to far more mental health concerns later on.
Myth 3: Postnatal Depression Is Just ‘Baby Blues’
Do you know someone who was told that their prolonged feelings of sadness after childbirth are just ‘baby blues’? Perhaps you found your own struggles as a new mum were minimised? People often dismiss postnatal depression as mere ‘baby blues,’ failing to realise the gravity of the condition and the serious intervention it may require.
The Truth: The term ‘baby blues’ refers to a temporary feeling of sadness or mood swings that many new mothers experience shortly after childbirth. It’s very, very common. However, postnatal depression is a more serious, long-lasting condition that requires expert attention.
Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia (PANDA) states that up to 1 in 5 expecting or new mothers and 1 in 10 expecting or new fathers experience antenatal or postnatal depression. The ‘baby blues’ typically resolve within a few weeks, while postnatal depression can last for several months or even longer. If you think you might be suffering from postnatal depression, it’s important to seek help as soon as possible. You do NOT have to go it alone.
Myth 4: Women’s Mental Health Issues Are Overdiagnosed
Have you ever questioned why women seem to be diagnosed with mental health conditions more often than men? Do you feel like this reflects a tendency to ‘overdiagnose’ women? The frequency of diagnoses for women doesn’t mean that they are overdiagnosed. In fact, it points to different risk factors and life experiences that often go unacknowledged. It also points to women’s greater likelihood to seek help.
The Truth: Whilst it is true that women are diagnosed with certain mental health conditions like depression and anxiety more frequently than men, this is not indicative of overdiagnosis. In fact, several studies suggest that women are more likely to experience certain types of mental health issues due to a variety of factors, including but not limited to, societal pressures, workplace stress, trying to balance both home and work responsibilities, and physical health issues unique to women. Women are also statistically more likely to ask for help than men, because of the social stigma men face when it comes to mental health. This stigma doesn’t serve men or women, and it’s time we did away with it!
Myth 5: Eating Disorders Are a ‘Young Woman’s Problem’
Eating disorders are stereotypically associated with young people, and in particular, young women. We hear very little about eating disorders in men, or in older people. Hence, there is a serious lack of conversation about eating disorders for other groups. This can make it harder for men or women to seek help, for fear of being judged or not believed.
The Truth: Eating disorders can and do affect people of all genders, ages, and backgrounds. According to the National Eating Disorders Collaboration of Australia, whilst the onset is most common in adolescence or early adulthood, eating disorders can occur at any age. They are serious, life-threatening, and require the help of an expert professional. This is NOT something to face on your own.
Myth 6: Women Can ‘Snap Out Of’ Mental Health Issues with Positive Thinking
Have you been told to just ‘snap out of it’ when you’re feeling down? Do you notice that society often underestimates the complexity of mental health issues? The idea that mental health struggles can be overcome by sheer willpower or ‘positive thinking’ is not only simplistic, but also harmful.
The Truth: Positive thinking is helpful in the right situation, but is not a substitute for professional treatment for mental health conditions. Telling someone to “snap out of it” minimises their experience and can make it harder for them to seek the help they need.
The idea that one can simply think away a mental illness is not only misleading but also stigmatising. It’s crucial that we, and society as a whole, break down these stigmas and myths, to ensure that no one feels unable to get the help they need.
Here at Integrated Health Specialists, we provide an understanding, judgement-free space to access expert help, when you need it most. If you’re struggling with any kind of mental health concern, it’s time to reach out. Get in touch with us today, and start your journey to feeling like yourself again.