Women and Emotional Health
Women and Emotional Health. First in a series of articles on women facing emotional health issues. From the book Women’s Emotional Wellness by Robert C Hoffman.
Women Experience Emotional Health Issues Throughout Their Life
According to the World Health Organization, women are vulnerable to a host of emotional issues. Some of the common issues include mood swings, anxiety, and depression. While these may be part of their whole life experience, women do tend to experience these concerns more during key periods in their life, such as during adolescence, middle-age and as mature-aged seniors.
Adolescence is an epic period of life. Puberty is the time when a person transforms radically. Not just physically but also in terms of emotional and psychological disposition. At this moment, young women tend to be more prone to mood swings, and are at a higher risk of developing anxiety and depression.
This happens because of brain development and hormonal fluctuations that take place during puberty. According to researcher Dr. Sarah Blakemore, the reorganization of brain anatomy can shift emotional regulation dramatically.
For example, anxiety can be triggered by the smallest of things. The most common ones, of course, are self-esteem and body image issues, confidence, and peer pressure. The fluctuation of neurotransmitters in the brain can also influence a person’s temperament, its effects ranging from the common menstrual irritability to the more serious case of depression.
Eventually, most young women’s biological conditions become more balanced and stabilize as they reach adulthood. But unfortunately, not always.
For women, adulthood sets the stage for two of the most important life events they can experience – childbirth and motherhood. Unfortunately, the advent of these moments increases the likelihood of the development of emotional health issues.
While women tend to experience mood swings because of hormonal shifts brought about by their menstrual cycle, anxiety and depression may also be triggered by psychological transitioning towards a motherhood role and/or postpartum blues.
For example, becoming pregnant during her early twenties can make a woman feel anxious and fretful of becoming a first-time mother, especially if they lack the socioeconomic resources essential for a decent state of living.
In the case of postpartum depression, excessive hormone fluctuations coupled with challenges in terms of skill and support can trigger a clinical episode.
There are also other risk factors for depression. Women in crisis, especially those who are in abusive relationships, those who are lacking emotional support, and those who are living in poverty, are also said to be at a high risk of developing this condition.
If a woman fails to rise above and surpass the challenges they’re facing; this multiplies the likelihood of them carrying unresolved issues into their senior years.
Senior women can still experience emotional health problems, even though they may have overcome many of their early emotional battles and are older and wiser. We can try to contextualize risk factors for emotional health during old age under two observable dimensions – biological and psychosocial. Let’s first look at the biological dimension.
Reproductive changes and menopausal transition can increase the likelihood of developing mood disorders including Clinical Depression. The reason why this happens can be linked to hormones, specifically, gonadal steroids responsible for bodily changes during menopause. These hormones can become unbalanced and tip the balance of neurotransmitters responsible for mood regulation.
In terms of the psychosocial dimension, studies find that elderly women who are loved and cared for tend to be happier and healthier during old age. Women who have a healthy self-concept are also less lonely.
However, women who reportedly harbor regrets from their youth, even if they are satisfactorily cared for by their loved ones, tend to suffer more from anxiety and depression. Senior women living in poverty are also identified as being at high risk of developing serious emotional health issues.