Women and Mental Health
Why is women’s mental health important?
Mental disorders can affect women and men differently. Some disorders are more common in women, such as depression, anxiety, and eating disorders. There are also certain disorders that are unique to women. For example, some women experience symptoms of depression at times of hormone change, such as during or after pregnancy (perinatal depression), around the time of their period (premenstrual dysphoric disorder), and during menopause (perimenopause-related depression).
When it comes to other mental disorders, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, research has not found sex differences in the rates at which they are diagnosed. But certain symptoms may be more common in women than men, and the course of illness can be affected by a person’s sex. Researchers are only now beginning to tease apart the various biological and psychosocial factors that may impact mental health.
What are symptoms of mental disorders in women?
Women and men can develop most of the same mental disorders and conditions, but they may experience different symptoms. Some common symptoms include:
- Persistent sadness or feelings of hopelessness
- Noticeable changes in mood, energy level, or appetite
- Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much
- Appetite or weight changes
- Misuse of alcohol, drugs, or both
- Decreased energy or fatigue
- Excessive fear or worry
- Seeing or hearing things that are not there
- Extremely high and low moods
- Aches, headaches, or digestive problems without a clear cause
- Anger or irritability
- Social withdrawal
- Thoughts or behaviors that interfere with work, family, or social life
- Thoughts of death or suicide or suicide attempts
Mental disorders can be treated: If you are unsure where to go for help, ask a health care provider or visit NIMH’s Help for Mental Illnesses webpage. Communicating well with a health care provider can improve your care and help you both make good choices about your health. Read about tips to help prepare and get the most out of your visit. For additional resources, including questions to ask a health care provider, visit the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality .
- Population Study Finds Depression Is Different Before, During, and After Pregnancy
• Research Highlight
New NIMH-funded research tracked population-level rates of postpartum depression among new mothers before, during, and after pregnancy.
- Barriers and Supports to HIV Prevention Among Young Women in Kenya
• Research Highlight
In a qualitative study supported by NIMH, researchers identified barriers and supports to Kenyan women’s use of PrEP, a highly effective medication to reduce HIV transmission.
- Women’s Experiences of Sexual Assault and Harassment Linked With High Blood Pressure
• Press Release
Women who had ever experienced sexual violence in their lifetime—including sexual assault and workplace sexual harassment—were more likely to develop high blood pressure over a seven-year follow-up period, according to an NIH-funded study.
Health topics and resources for women
Featured health topics
- Anxiety Disorders
- Bipolar Disorder
- Borderline Personality Disorder
- Eating Disorders
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
- Suicide Prevention
Featured brochures and fact sheets
- Depression Among Women : This Centers for Disease Control and Prevention webpage provides information about depression among women, including risk factors for depression, and postpartum depression.
- Maternal Health : The Health Resources and Services Administration offers programs and resources on maternal health, including depression during and after pregnancy.
- National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD) : NICHD supports the Moms’ Mental Health Matters initiative and the PregSource research project.
- Maternal Morbidity & Mortality Web Portal : This resource from the NIH Office of Research on Women's Health provides resources for mothers about maternal health.
- Office on Women’s Health: Mental Health : Learn more about women’s mental health on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’s Office on Women’s Health website.
- Women’s Health : The National Library of Medicine’s MedlinePlus offers resources on the unique health issues women experience (en español ).
Featured videos on women’s mental health
This video provides patient testimony and information on the signs and symptoms of postpartum depression and reinforces the importance of seeking help and treatment from a health professional.
Learn about the signs, symptoms, treatments, and latest research on the menopause transition and depression.
Got 60 seconds? Take a mental health minute to learn about eating disorders.
- 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline : The Lifeline provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, across the United States. Call or text 988 to connect with a trained crisis counselor. Support is also available via live chat . Para ayuda en español, llame al 988.
- National Maternal Mental Health Hotline : This hotline offers free, confidential mental health support for moms and their families before, during, and after pregnancy. Call or text 1-833-TLC-MAMA (1-833-852-6262) to connect with counselors 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. English- and Spanish-speaking counselors are available.
- Disaster Distress Helpline : This helpline from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration provides immediate crisis counseling for people experiencing emotional distress related to any natural or human-caused disaster. The helpline is free, multilingual, confidential, and available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Call or text 1-800-985-5990.
- Veterans Crisis Line : This helpline is a free, confidential resource for veterans of all ages and circumstances. Call 988 then press 1; text 838255; or chat online to connect with 24/7 support.
- NIH Health Info Lines
Why should women participate in clinical trials?
Clinical trials are research studies that look at new ways to prevent, detect, or treat diseases and conditions. The goal of clinical trials is to determine if a new test or treatment works and is safe. Although people may benefit from being part of a clinical trial, they should be aware that the primary purpose of a clinical trial is to gain new scientific knowledge so that others can be better helped in the future.
Researchers at NIMH and around the country conduct many studies with patients and healthy volunteers. We have new and better treatment options today because of what clinical trials have uncovered. Talk to a health care provider about clinical trials, their benefits and risks, and whether one is right for you.
NIMH researchers are currently working to identify the causes of, treatments for, and predictors of risk for reproductive endocrine-related mood disorders, including the following:
In addition to these disorders, NIMH researchers are also studying other mental disorders that affect women. To find studies being conducted at NIMH, visit Join a Study: Adults.
Sex and gender can influence health in important ways. You can help scientists learn more about the differences and make it possible to draw conclusions that advance health for both women and men. NIMH is committed to ensuring that women trying to decide whether to enroll in a clinical study get all the information they need to feel comfortable and make informed decisions.
Last Reviewed: May 2023
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