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Advocating and Understanding Women’s Behavioral Health in California

Across the country, the month of May is Mental Health Month – a time of advocacy, education, and awareness surrounding behavioral health disorders and treatment. Mental health disorders do not discriminate and affect all genders, races, and ethnic backgrounds. Studies have found that women are more likely to develop mental health disorders, with 26.4% of women reporting mental illness versus 19.7% of men during the reporting period. This amounts to approximately one in five women experiencing mental health conditions – and the way they affect women differs significantly to the way they impact men.

Although there is not a month dedicated to women’s behavioral health exclusively – the week of Mother’s Day is set aside to shine a light on women’s mental health awareness. Whether these women are mothers, aunts, cousins, or just someone’s daughter, their mental health is important.

How Mental Health Differs Between Men and Women

Mental health issues can vary widely between women and men.

Men and women may experience mental health issues differently due to a variety of factors, including biological, psychological, and sociocultural differences. Here are some ways in which women’s mental health may differ from men’s:

  • Prevalence of certain disorders: Some mental health disorders are more prevalent in women than in men, such as depression and anxiety disorders. Women are also more likely to experience eating disorders like anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa.
  • Hormonal influences: Fluctuations in hormones, such as those related to the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, childbirth, and menopause, can affect women’s mental health. Conditions like premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) and postpartum depression are examples of how hormonal changes can impact women’s mental well-being.
  • Social and cultural factors: Women may face unique stressors and societal pressures related to gender roles, expectations, and experiences of discrimination or violence, which can contribute to mental health challenges. Balancing caregiving responsibilities, career expectations, and societal pressures to conform to certain standards can also impact women’s mental well-being.
  • Help-seeking behavior: Research suggests that women may be more likely to seek help for mental health issues compared to men. This could be due to differences in socialization, with women being more encouraged to express emotions and seek support from others. On the other hand, men may be socialized to suppress emotions and may be less likely to seek help for mental health concerns, leading to underdiagnosis and undertreatment.
  • Symptom presentation: Men and women may exhibit different symptoms of the same mental health disorder. For example, while men may be more likely to exhibit externalizing behaviors such as anger, aggression, or substance abuse, women may be more likely to experience internalizing symptoms such as sadness, rumination, or somatic complaints.

Treatment Options for Women with Mental Health Conditions

Treatment options for women with mental health conditions are similar to those for anyone experiencing mental health challenges. Some facilities may offer inpatient behavioral health treatment exclusively for women or outpatient opportunities. Additional treatment options may include:

Therapy can be part of a successful treatment plan for mental health.
  • Therapy/Counseling: Psychotherapy, or talk therapy, with a qualified mental health professional can be highly effective for women dealing with various mental health issues. Different types of therapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), and interpersonal therapy (IPT), can address specific concerns like depression, anxiety, trauma, or relationship difficulties.
  • Medication: For certain mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety disorders, or mood disorders, medication may be prescribed by a psychiatrist or other healthcare provider. It’s essential for women to discuss the risks and benefits of medication with their healthcare provider and to monitor any potential side effects.
  • Support Groups: Participating in support groups specifically tailored to women’s mental health concerns can provide valuable peer support, validation, and coping strategies. Support groups may focus on topics such as postpartum depression, trauma recovery, or managing chronic conditions.
  • Lifestyle Changes: Engaging in healthy lifestyle habits such as regular exercise, adequate sleep, nutritious diet, and stress management techniques (e.g., mindfulness, meditation, yoga) can support overall mental well-being.
  • Self-Care Practices: Encouraging self-care practices, such as setting boundaries, practicing self-compassion, engaging in hobbies, and prioritizing activities that bring joy and fulfillment, can be beneficial for managing stress and maintaining mental health.
  • Family and Social Support: Cultivating supportive relationships with family, friends, or community members can provide women with emotional support, practical assistance, and a sense of belonging.
  • Holistic Approaches: Some women may find benefit from holistic complementary and alternative therapies such as acupuncture, massage therapy, art therapy, or herbal supplements. It’s important to discuss these options with a healthcare provider to ensure safety and effectiveness.
  • Trauma-Informed Care: For women who have experienced trauma, trauma-informed care approaches emphasize safety, trust, empowerment, and collaboration in the therapeutic process.
  • Cultural and Gender-Specific Interventions: Tailoring treatment approaches to address cultural factors, gender-specific issues, and unique life experiences can enhance the effectiveness of mental health interventions for women.
  • Continued Monitoring and Follow-Up: Regular check-ins with healthcare providers and ongoing monitoring of symptoms and treatment progress are essential to ensure that treatment remains effective and to make adjustments as needed.

Women’s Mental Health Treatment in California

Seeking behavioral health treatment in California for women is crucial for encouraging overall well-being and empowerment. Addressing mental health concerns provides women with the tools and support needed to navigate life’s challenges, enhance relationships, and promote resilience. By seeking treatment, women can alleviate symptoms of mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, trauma, and eating disorders, improving their quality of life and functioning.

Riviera Recovery understands that women have different needs than men – especially when dealing with mental health. Our women’s dual diagnosis & sober living in Los Angeles was designed to cater to the needs and emotions that women experience while they are struggling with mental health conditions or addiction. We believe that mental health awareness is more than just a month-long advocacy, so we support behavioral health education and treatment all year long.If you or a loved one is struggling with their mental health, we urge you to reach out to Riviera Recovery today to learn more about our behavioral health treatment options in Los Angeles, California.