At some point in everyone’s life, odds are they’ll experience some kind of mental health concern, or be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. 1 in 5 adults in the United States are affected by anxiety disorders, according to the U.S. Office on Women’s Health.
However, women are nearly twice as likely to experience this.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 23.4% of females were diagnosed with an anxiety disorder in their lifetime, as opposed to 14.3% of males.
Anxiety and depression are common
Dr. Nicole Cross-Hillman is a licensed psychologist at Sanford Behavioral Health in Bismarck, North Dakota. She said anxiety and depression are the two most common mental health concerns she sees in women in their 20s.
“I also see a fair amount of trauma. Adjustment concerns could come up as well. I’d describe those as fairly benign mental health concerns just given that they typically do not persist beyond six months. However, due to a significant event/change, a person can have some level of anxiety or depression that is directly related to that particular adjustment,” she said.
What can trigger these feelings?
Dr. Cross-Hillman said women in their 20s often deal with a lot of changes and adjustments, which can contribute to feelings of anxiety or depression.
“Going to college and/or leaving home for the first time, managing a workload (coursework or a job) independently, figuring out who one is outside of their hometown or family system,” she said. “There can also be an increase in alcohol or drug use, just having that independence from their parents and/or if their peer group is using substances.
“I think another life factor would be marriage and children – major life factors and transitions that are most often happy, but not necessarily stress-free, particularly if there are infertility issues, loss, etc.
“Working full-time, learning to manage money, manage stress, possibly a level of stress young women may not yet have experienced before can be a significant adjustment or challenge.”
What does it look like if symptoms get worse?
Dr. Cross-Hillman said it’s normal to experience feelings of anxiety, or even low mood, during big adjustments.
“Talking about it as part of the process while also recognizing that it feels and, often is, very challenging can be helpful. It’s a reminder to someone that they are not alone. If symptoms progress or get worse, a person would likely experience a breakdown in their functioning,” she said.
Dr. Cross-Hillman said examples include:
- Not making it to class
- Slipping grades
- Not making it to work
- Substance use to cope with, or avoid, symptoms
- Relationship problems
“If symptoms warrant treatment and are left untreated, things could intensify to the point of a mental health crisis,” she explained.
If you’re experiencing these concerns
It’s OK. And normal. And what you’re feeling is valid.
“I’d remind someone that they are not alone. I’d offer options for additional support,” said Dr. Cross-Hillman.
She said support can be formal or informal. For example, informal or natural supports are family members, friends, teachers, mentors, coaches, or work colleagues. Formal supports are college counseling centers, groups at college or in the community, individual therapy, or psychiatry.
There’s help at Sanford Health
Remember, mental health is just as real and important as physical health.
When you sprain your ankle, you nurse it back to health. You shouldn’t be ashamed of the injury. Dr. Cross-Hillman hopes that people are thinking about mental health in the same way. If something hurts, and it’s getting in the way of life, there’s help.
If you or someone you know is experiencing mental health concerns, Dr. Cross-Hillman said there is help at Sanford.
Primary care providers can help care for all aspects of your health – including mental health – and connect you to appropriate specialists.
She speaks highly about individual therapy and counseling.
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