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What Are the Most Common Types of Mental Illness in Women?

Borderline personality disorder is more common among women than men and may lead to self harm.
Women are more likely to develop bipolar type 2 disorder than men.
Eating disorders are more common in women than men.
Poor body image correlates to some types of mental illness in women, especially those involving eating disorders.
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  • Written By: Melanie Smeltzer
  • Edited By: Daniel Lindley
  • Last Modified Date: 22 October 2014
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It has been shown that mental illness in women can present itself differently than it does in men, not only in how it affects each gender, but also by the frequency of certain disorders. Some illnesses, such as eating disorders, are more common in women. Others, like postpartum depression, are experienced exclusively or almost exclusively by women. Many common mental illnesses in women have to do with child birth, social stresses, and post-traumatic events.

Although mental illness in women can take many forms, one of the better known issues is postpartum depression. This condition usually develops within the first few months after delivery, but may also occur after a stillbirth or miscarriage. Postpartum depression is characterized by feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and a difficulty in bonding with the new baby. A similar condition, known as postpartum psychosis, is said to be an uncommon but potentially dangerous mental illness. It usually develops within the first three weeks after delivery, and can present itself with a severe inability to bond with the child, hallucinations, and strange or violent behavior.

In some cases, the manifestation of mental illness in women can also affect them physically. This is especially true in eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating. Despite the fact that these conditions may also appear in men, they are most commonly associated with women, and can physically affect them in different ways, such as changes in menstrual cycle and a difficulty or inability to conceive.

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Mental illness in women is not confined to pregnancy and body-related issues. For instance, women are more likely to develop bipolar type 2 disorder, which may result in episodes of depression that alternate with mild hypomania, and a higher frequency of mood cycling. ADHD-PI (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder – predominantly inattentive) is a sub-type of ADHD that is common in women, and can present itself with symptoms of extreme shyness, forgetfulness, and an inability to focus.

Severe types of mental illness in women, such as schizophrenia and borderline personality disorder (BPD), may manifest in a number of ways that are different from men. In general, women with schizophrenia may develop more romantic delusions and severe mood swings, but are less likely to succumb to alcoholism or loss of sexual drive. Although symptoms of BPD are usually similar in women and men, they differ in frequency, with roughly 75% of those afflicted being women.

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