Women’s Mental Health: Awareness, Symptoms and Support 
No matter what might be impacting the success of your mental health, Inkblot removes barriers to accessing the right support.

Written by Zoe Daniels

Published on March 1, 2022
Women making a heart shape with her hands

Mental health is not simply the absence of mental illness. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), it is “a state of well-being in which an individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and can contribute to his or her community.” Mental health is affected by social, psychological, and biological factors. Women’s health, in general, is less well understood than men’s, which, according to the National Library of Medicine (NIH), can result in inadequate care for female patients. Luckily, signs of postpartum depression, for example, are relatively well known as are symptoms of depression in women and body dysmorphic disorder symptoms. Diagnosis and treatment of these issues can radically improve the quality of life.

What affects women’s mental health?

There are a variety of things that can impact women’s mental health, and below are just some of the common contributing factors. Note that this is not a definitive list, as each individual manages life and social experiences and expectations differently. 

Hormones 

People who menstruate experience varying hormone levels during their menstrual cycles. These hormones can affect diagnosed conditions like anxiety and depression and cause premenstrual syndrome, premenstrual dysphoric disorder and irregular periods. When the menstrual cycle pauses during pregnancy, pregnant people may experience relapses in depression, anxiety, and/or obsessive-compulsive disorder. The post-partum period sees a series of changes in hormone levels, too, as the body readjusts to not being pregnant. Menopause has its own host of hormonal changes which can affect mental health.

Children 

Whether partnered or single, female parents have a higher risk of personal stress than women without children. Stress can influence mental health in a variety of negative ways. The work of childcare, which falls predominantly to women, may increase feelings of exhaustion, uncertainty, and overwhelm, contributing to the negative impact on women’s mental health.

Discrimination

According to WHO, “An environment that respects and protects basic civil, political, socio-economic and cultural rights is fundamental to mental health.” In many countries around the world, discrimination and violence against women contribute to a culture in which women are not psychologically secure, making it doubly challenging to maintain mental health. This effect is compounded for women who are part of other marginalized groups: BIPOC, religious minorities, 2SLGBTQ+, etc. 

The mental health landscape for women in Canada

  • Women are approximately almost twice as likely to report suffering from depression than men. (Source)
  • 16 per cent of Canadian women will experience major depression in their lives. (Source)
  • Anorexia nervosa affects between 0.3 per cent and 1 per cent of Canadian women and bulimia nervosa 1-3 per cent. That’s between approximately 50,000 and half a million people. (Source)
  • Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, 30 per cent of new Canadian mothers under the age of 25 reported feelings consistent with post-partum depression or an anxiety disorder. That number was 23 per cent among women 25 or older. (Source)
  • Canadian women’s mental health was disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, as a result of adverse life events like job loss, caretaking responsibilities, and death in the family. (Source)
  • Canadian women, especially those with children at home, were among the groups most likely to report feeling anxious and depressed during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Source)

Common women’s health concerns and symptoms

Many mental health conditions have overlapping symptoms. The best course of action is to connect with a certified practitioner who can help guide you toward the proper diagnosis and treatment plan. The following are just some of the symptoms related to women’s mental health concerns. 

Disordered eating

  • Marked changes in weight 
  • Slow heart rate 
  • Anemia
  • Lack of a period or light, irregular periods
  • Inability to regulate temperature (e.g. being cold all the time)
  • Hair loss, dry skin and growth of lanugo hair
  • Obsession with food, calories, or exercise
  • Stomach pain or changes in bowel movements

Depression

  • Thoughts of suicide 
  • Feelings of despair and hopelessness
  • Detachment from life and the people around you
  • Always feeling tired or having no energy
  • Not being able to concentrate or make decisions
  • A loss of appetite or a change in sleep patterns
  • Headaches or stomach upsets that occur frequently

Learn more about how to understand and find support for depression.

Anxiety

  • Irrational and excessive fear
  • Feeling restless or irritable
  • Increased muscle aches and soreness
  • Anxious thoughts, predictions, or beliefs 
  • Difficulty managing daily tasks and/or distress related to these tasks
  • Avoidance of feared situations and/or activities that elicit sensations similar to those experienced when anxious

Learn more about how to understand and find support for anxiety.

Postpartum depression

  • Hopelessness
  • Excessive crying
  • Delusions or hallucinations 
  • Intense irritability and anger
  • Difficulty bonding with your baby
  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide
  • Depressed mood or severe mood swings
  • Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
  • Loss of appetite or eating much more than usual
  • Inability to sleep (insomnia) or sleeping too much
  • Feelings of worthlessness, shame, guilt or inadequacy
  • Diminished ability to think clearly, concentrate or make decisions

Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) 

  • Avoiding social situations
  • Constantly comparing your appearance with others
  • Strong belief that you have a defect in your appearance that makes you ugly or deformed
  • Being extremely preoccupied with a perceived flaw in appearance that to others can’t be seen or appears minor
  • Belief that others take special notice of your appearance negatively or mock you
  • Engaging in behaviours aimed at fixing or hiding the perceived flaw that is difficult to resist or control, such as frequently checking the mirror, grooming or skin picking

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)

  • Acne flare-ups
  • Change in libido
  • Social withdrawal
  • Poor concentration
  • Abdominal bloating
  • Breast tenderness
  • Alcohol intolerance
  • Joint or muscle pain
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Mood swings and irritability or anger
  • Appetite changes and food cravings
  • Trouble falling asleep (insomnia)
  • Weight gain related to fluid retention

Find mental health support for your specific needs with help from Room For Her 

No matter what might be impacting the success of your mental health, know that the right support is available. Room For Her exists to help remove the barriers women face in accessing therapy, including not knowing how to find a therapist, long wait times, and the costs, inconvenience, and time spent travelling to and from traditional in-person therapy.

Choose from one of our complimentary therapy options and begin your journey to better mental health. 

Disclaimer: This article contains guidelines or advice not intended to self-diagnose or treat. No content should be used as a substitute for direct advice from a qualified professional such as your doctor or mental health professional. Please reach out for support with a certified professional related to the symptoms you may be experiencing.

If you are in crisis and require immediate support, call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room. Alternately, please contact the Canada Suicide Prevention Service at 1 833 456-4566 (en tout temps). 1-833-456-4566 (24/7). For residents of Québec, call1 866 APPELLE (1 866 277-3553).

Subscribe to our newsletter

Sign up for free tips, resources and more.