A good time to think about mental health and gender

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This International Women's Day we are taking a moment to reflect on how mental health issues impact specifically on Women.

There are one or two mental health issues which are unique to women. Post natal depression affects between 10 and 15% of new mothers. And is much more common in women who have a previous history of mental health problems. In theory this should make it easier for health workers to detect but many suffer in silence. Positively, there has been an increase in high profile mums speaking out, which is helping to break down the stigma, for example model Chrissy Teigen recently revealed that she had been diagnosed. 

Secondly, a small percentage of women suffer from Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder, that is that their pre-menstrual symptoms are so extreme that they qualify as a mental health issue. The very fact that most women suffer the milder PMS makes this particular type of mental health issue much less likely to be diagnosed but figures range from 3-8% of the female population suffering from this particular disorder. 

Thirdly, although eating disorders affect both men and women it is estimated that approximately 90% of cases are in women. Tragically Anorexia Nervosa has the highest mortality rate of any mental health problem at approximately 20%.

There are a wide range of theories which attempt to explain their prevalence among young women including media and social media pressures, the diet industry, and some of the wider social pressures placed on women. These social pressures can range from sexualisation, which can trigger young women to reject by trying to control their development of an adult body shape, to the burden of they often carry of caring for others within the family. 

Overeating is the addiction of choice of carers, and that's why it's come to be regarded as the lowest-ranking of all the addictions. Caitlin Moran

Later on in life the Menopause can cause trigger depression, anxiety and panic attacks

Whilst even in their experiences of common mental health problems such as depression and anxiety the causes and symptoms are often uniquely linked to the sufferer's gender and their roles in life and society. 

Finally, as International Women's Day highlights the particular horror of violence against women it's also worth noting that domestic abuse and sexual violence are major factors in experiencing mental health problems. 

Although there are variations in the kinds of mental health issues that affect men and women in fact the prevalence rates across all mental health issues are roughly the same. On International Men's Day we will round up some of the particular things that affect men's mental health. 

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