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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.

Mental health includes emotional, psychological, and social well-being. Learn more about taking care of your 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 .

If you or someone you know is struggling or having thoughts of suicide, call or text the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline  at 988 or chat at . In life-threatening situations, call 911.

Latest news

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Intervention Reduces Likelihood of Developing Postpartum Anxiety and Depression by More Than 70%

Press Release

Results from a large clinical trial funded by the National Institutes of Health show that an intervention for anxiety provided to pregnant women living in Pakistan significantly reduced the likelihood of the women developing moderate-to-severe anxiety, depression, or both six weeks after birth.

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Combined, High Maternal Stress and Prenatal COVID-19 Infection May Affect Attention Span in Infants

Media Advisory

Prenatal COVID-19 infection increased the risk for impaired attention and delayed socioemotional and cognitive functioning among infants of mothers who experienced high psychosocial stress during their pregnancy.

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Pregnant woman holds her baby bump while a therapist in the background takes notes.
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.

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Health topics and resources for women

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Health hotlines

  • 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.

Our studies take place at the NIH Clinical Center  in Bethesda, Maryland, and require regular visits. If you don’t live nearby, you can find a clinical trial near you .

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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