Women’s Issues in Counseling
“Today, more than 29 million women in America (or approximately 23%) struggle with mental illness. 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 the female experience while others can affect all genders.Regardless, women may experience these concerns differently. Women’s issues can significantly impact the daily lives and overall well-being of women.” – Women’s Issues by Jenna Jarrold (https://www.therapytribe.com/therapy/womens-issues/)
Women’s issues in counseling simply refer to any concerns that might impact a women’s mental and emotional health. Listed below are some issues that men can also face, but others are unique to the female experience due to some biological and environmental conditions.
If you are or if you know someone struggling with any of the following issues, it may be time to seek professional counseling with a counselor who is comfortable working with women’s issues.
Some of the Most Common Women’s Issues in Counseling
Women are almost twice as likely to be diagnosed with depression than men. This could, in part, be related to the fact that men seek professional help less often for mental health issues than women. However, hormonal changes throughout the lifetime after puberty, including pre and postpartum, can lead to depression.
That is not the only factor, though. Any of the following issues can also contribute to a woman developing depression. Some of the main symptoms of depression are as follows:
- Lack of motivation or interest in doing things that you usually enjoy
- Trouble sleeping
- Excessive crying for no reason
- A heavy sense of inexplicable and ongoing sadness
- Appetite changes
- Suicidal Thoughts
- Trouble concentrating
- Low sense of self-worth
AnxietyWomen are also nearly twice as likely as men to develop an anxiety disorder in their lifetime after puberty.
Some of the signs and symptoms of anxiety are as follows:
- Feeling excessively nervous or on edge
- Rapid breathing
- Increased heart rate
- Sense of impending doom
- Excessive worry
- Trouble concentrating
- Trouble with sleeping
The characteristics of Bipolar Disorder can be very different for women than for men. It is important to understand the differences. Though it occurs at a fairly equal rate between women and men, women are more likely to have difficulty managing it due to hormonal changes that can exacerbate the issues.
Bipolar Disorder is not the same as hormonal mood swings, though. Bipolar Disorder usually requires treatment for a lifetime. There are a very distinct set of symptoms required for a diagnosis to be made, including:
Bipolar I: One must experience manic episodes that last at least 7 days, or by manic symptoms that are severe enough to require hospitalization. Usually, depressive episodes also happen, and it is also possible to have episodes with mixed features of depression and mania.
Bipolar II: Women may be more likely to develop Bipolar II than men. The pattern is depressive and hypomanic episodes in Bipolar II, not full manic episodes.
Self-Esteem / Body Image
Though men also struggle with this, women seem to present with low self-esteem in counseling more often.
Self-esteem issues could have originated in numerous ways over the course of one’s life (abuse, bullying, the media’s portrayal of an ideal woman, comparison, and others), and often present as body image concerns.
Eating disorders can also affect men, but they are most common with women. Eating disorders can be very serious, so you should seek professional help immediately if you exhibit severely unhealthy eating patterns or have a very critical view of your body. It is important not to isolate. Seek help.
Though sexual abuse affects men, it affects women more often. About 1 in 7 girls and 1 in 25 boys will be sexually abused by their 18th birthday. It is not uncommon for women to present with something like depression or anxiety, and then later in therapy, it comes out that they have also experienced sexual abuse.
It is important to find a counselor who is trauma-informed and trauma-trained to work through your history of sexual abuse because it can affect almost every area of your life.
Intimate Partner Violence
Women are also more likely to experience violence from their partners. Often women in these relationships have a difficult time leaving. If you are in a situation with a partner who is hurtful to you (in word or action), tell a safe person and get the help you need.
Nationally, according to the CDC, about 1 in 9 women experience postpartum depression. This is a problem often overlooked by new mothers due to fatigue and thinking their experience is due to hormonal changes.
However, if you are experiencing any of the signs and symptoms of depression (listed above) and/or a lack of desire to connect with your baby, even extreme irritability with the baby or your loved ones, you may be struggling with Postpartum Depression.
Pregnancy Loss / Infertility
Though this is something that can affect the male in relationships, too, women seem to hold much of the emotional weight that accompanies these issues. 1 in 4 women will have a miscarriage, so the problem of pregnancy loss is widespread. It can affect women differently, some not experiencing much emotional pain at all and some walking through very intense grief.
Though this is changing, discrimination against women still occurs and still can greatly affect someone’s mental and emotional health when it is serious. Some women may be in workplaces, marriages, communities, or even churches that treat them as though they are less than. This can take a toll on someone after a while.
As mentioned before, hormonal changes can be a factor in many of the aforementioned presenting issues. This is unique to the woman’s experience, and it is important that women know how to navigate them.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
PTSD is a result of traumatic experiences in one’s life. Though many associate this disorder with men after combat, women are twice as likely to develop PTSD than men. Women with PTSD may be more depressed and anxious, and they have difficulty managing their difficult emotions.
They tend to avoid things that remind them of the traumatic event. Women are less likely than men to turn to alcohol or drugs (means of coping) than men with PTSD. Some of the symptoms of PTSD include:
- Recurring and unwanted memories of the distressing or traumatic event
- Nightmares about the event
- Flashbacks that make one feel as if the event is happening again
- Severe emotional distress when reminded of the traumatic event
Borderline Personality Disorder
Though often difficult to diagnose, “women who have borderline personality disorder experience feelings of fear, paranoia, reckless behavior, irritability, depression, thoughts of suicide or self-harm, and violent outbursts” (https://www.therapytribe.com/therapy/womens-issues) Nearly 75% perfect of the people diagnosed with BPD are women. Some of the signs and symptoms of BPD include:
- Extreme difficulties with regulating emotion
- Very low self-esteem
- Wide mood swings
- Unstable relationships (that move back and forth between love and hate)
- Chronic feelings of boredom or emptiness
- Impulsive behaviors that can have dangerous outcomes
- Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment from loved ones
Self-harming Behaviors / Suicidal Ideation
Though self-harming is more common in teens and young adults (this occurring more often with women, too), women do often present with suicidal ideation.
Women are more likely than men to attempt suicide, but men are more likely to die by suicide, possibly due to the fact they use more lethal means. Women are more likely to seek professional help with this issue as well, but it is something that cannot be ignored.
Christian Counseling for Women’s Issues
If you are experiencing any of these issues and they are greatly impacting your daily life, it is important for you to seek professional help as soon as possible. Not all counselors may understand the unique challenge that women face, so seek out a counselor who has experience in and is comfortable with counseling for women’s issues. Some even specialize in some of the issues mentioned above. Your mental and emotional health matters, and so do you.
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