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

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  • Written By: Melanie Smeltzer
  • Edited By: Daniel Lindley
  • Last Modified Date: 11 October 2019
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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.


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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Post 3

@Ana1234 - I think problems often happen when culture shifts around people and traditional support evaporates or new problems arise. For example, many countries torn by war end up with massive PTSD outbreaks and often women and children are the worst hit by this and the least likely to be treated for it.

Post 2

@pastanaga - Post-partum depression is and always has been a relatively common and widespread illness, but it often has a physical cause, related to the hormones that hit a woman after she gives birth. And other mental illness, like schizophrenia, are relatively equally distributed as well, because, again, they have a physical or genetic cause.

But there are other kinds of mental illness that are definitely a product of their time and place and often of the gender as well. Suicide, for example, is far more common in some societies than others. Eating disorders are going to be shaped by the general relationship with food and body types of a culture.

So it's not like there are thousands of undiagnosed anorexics in impoverished countries. The people there might suffer from other things, but not from foreign mental illnesses.

Post 1

Whenever I hear people talking about postpartum depression being a kind of modern illness, it makes me think of a story a friend told me once, about something that happened when she was on a trip in East Asia. She had stopped for the week in a fairly small town and every night she and her travel buddy could hear a baby crying across the street, but it just seemed like background noise that you'd expect in a village.

Then, the morning they were supposed to leave there was a funeral in the streets and they asked who had died. Apparently the mother of the crying baby had been so overwhelmed and isolated that she took her own life as

well as that of the child.

My friend said that it had never even occurred to her that the woman might need help. And it made her wonder how much mental illness in women in impoverished areas simply goes unnoticed until it's too late.

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