23 FEBRUARY 2017
Dr. Priyanka Kalra
Sheela* is a 26 year old vibrant female, who enjoys going to work daily. She got married a month ago and suddenly she realised her life has taken a 180 degree turn. Suddenly she has to leave the job she loved for taking care of the household. She does all the necessary household chores but she feels a little more trapped every day. She has stopped seeing her friends now, as it only reminds her of her old self. She doesn’t paint anymore, the activity she used to love doing. Sleep is a luxury now and she has to force herself to eat. On top of it, taking care of household, pressure for starting a family has become so overwhelming that she doesn’t know what to do.
Anita* is going through menopause. She feels tired most of the time. Her body doesn’t have the vigour it used to. Sometimes she has hot flushes and sometimes anger outbursts. Her husband and children have started complaining that she has changed so much. She used to be very happy go lucky but she has become very irritable now. She frequently complaints, nags, sleeps badly and remains tired.
The above cases illustrate very common scenarios observed in our everyday lives. However, do we ever pause and give a thought that fatigue, change of mood, disturbed sleep, appetite, loss of interest, change of personality could all be a part of depressive disorder. However, the ease with which it is missed is almost scary!!
What happens if we don’t pay attention to these symptoms?
There may begin a series of complaints, like constant nagging headaches, body-aches, numbness, breathing difficulty and gastric complaints. These complaints mask the underlying depression and often the symptoms get missed for a long time.
Are women same as men in biological and psychological make up?
What we need to understand is that, women and men are different not only physically different but also have a different psychological makeup. There are actual differences in the way women's and men's brains are "wired" and in the way they communicate, deal in relationships, express their feelings, and react to stress.
Symptoms of depression, anxiety, and unspecified psychological distress are 2-3 times more common among women than among men.
Not only depression, the lifetime risk of anxiety disorders (e.g., generalized anxiety disorder) is 2-3 times higher in females as compared to males. Women have higher rates of attempted suicides as compared to men.
What are the risk factors ?
Reproductive age group is particularly vulnerable to mental illnesses.
- Post partum blues, post partum depression and post partum psychosis are not that uncommon.
- Low income, birth of a daughter when a son was desired,
- Relationship difficulties with mother-in-law and parents,
- Adverse life events during pregnancy and lack of physical help are all risk factors for the onset of postpartum depression.
In addition, the postpartum period carries the potential for exacerbation of psychiatric symptoms in women with the pre-existing mental illness.
What needs to be done?
It is important to realise that we cannot ignore the mental health of women, which spans across the entire life cycle.
The first step towards improving mental health in women is becoming aware of the problems faced and getting an evaluation for the same. Certain common symptoms such as daily headaches, body aches, fatigue, lack of will to work, may be easily missed.
In certain pockets of the society, women themselves may not be forthcoming with their problems, hence it is imperative that the family members must be aware of mental health issues and get a psychiatric consultation.
Social and cultural factors play a big role in shaping the daily lives of women and hence, mental health cannot be seen in isolation of these factors as well. We need to incorporate the concept of mental health and wellness in our lives in the same manner as physical fitness.
The age old paradigm holds true "A healthy mind in a healthy body"
Hence the message is clear, don't miss these important symptoms in yourself of the women in your family, get evaluation and seek help for these concerns. The change begins with us! #Mindovermatter #BeBoldForChange
* Names have been changed to protect identity