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Mental Wellness for Women

Mental Wellness for Women

by Rita Baron-Faust

This practical guide to mental health addresses everything from anxiety and PMS to depression and sexual dysfunction. It's an essential reference to how each stage of a woman's life may affect her mental and emotional well being, what happens when things go wrong, and what can be done about it —from self-help to the latest treatments in the fast-changing field


This practical guide to mental health addresses everything from anxiety and PMS to depression and sexual dysfunction. It's an essential reference to how each stage of a woman's life may affect her mental and emotional well being, what happens when things go wrong, and what can be done about it —from self-help to the latest treatments in the fast-changing field of pharmaceuticals.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This third title in the NYU Medical Center series of health handbooks for women-following volumes on breast cancer and heart disease-focuses on what medical science currently knows about mental illness. Baron-Faust, a medical writer, notes that women suffer from depression and eating disorders in higher numbers than men, and that schizophrenia and other thought disorders are equally common in both sexes. Chapter discussions follow on these and other mental illnesses. Chapters on Mood Disorders, Anxiety and Panic, Personality Disorders and more feature informative descriptions, self-quizzes, suggested treatments utilizing psychotherapy and/or pharmacotherapy and lists of medications with their side effects. Brief and continuing stories of individual women speaking in their own words about their illnesses and treatments give the book a human face. Balanced consideration is given to the controversial issue of the role of female hormones on mental disorders, and the question of how life cycle events affect women's mental well-being is examined. There is also a chapter that delineates the differences between various psychotherapeutic approaches. The book concludes with a chapter of practical advice for maintaining mental wellness. (Jan.)
Library Journal
Baron-Faust (Breast Cancer: What Every Woman Should Know, Hearst, 1995) here offers complete coverage of mental health issues for women, including women of color and lesbians. Her goal is to prevent needless suffering and to help women maintain mental wellness and become informed consumers of mental health services. The topics covered include, among others, mood disorders, schizophrenia and psychosis, addictions, eating and body image, sexuality, violence and victimization, a woman's life cycle, how to find a therapist, and how to maintain wellness. All chapters have one or two personal stories, offer a quiz or chart, and discuss drugs that might help and their side effects. Unfortunately, though the extensive list of doctors cited here is impressive, chapters are not attributed to specific experts. And when studies are mentioned and results discussed, there is no detailed identification, nor are there any footnotes. Still, with an up-to-date bibliography and a 22-page resource list, this book is recommended for women's health collections.-Susan E. Burdick, Reading, Pa.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
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6.13(w) x 9.26(h) x 1.02(d)

Read an Excerpt

We often use the word "depression" to describe the sadness we feel after a loss or disappointment. But major depression is more than feeling sad. It is a biochemical illness with symptoms that affect the body as well as the mind, explains Brace Rubenstein, M.D., director of Behavioral Health Programs at NYU Medical Center.

"The most typical symptoms of major depression include a persistent blue mood, a constant feeling of emotional pain and sadness, crying a great deal, as well as low energy, difficulty concentrating and, most tellingly, an inability to enjoy things you usually enjoy," explains Dr. Rubenstein. These symptoms may come on suddenly or gradually over a period of days or weeks, and persist for weeks or months.

Major depression can affect memory, energy levels, motor function (movement and activity), appetite, sleep, sexual functioning and the immune system.

There may also be psychomotor changes, such as feeling so slowed down that when asked a question it may take more time than usual to answer. Some people have agitated depression — they're irritable and can't seem to sit still — while others are unable to eat or get out of bed, says Dr. Rubenstein. With severe depression, a person may feel worthless, that life isn't worth living, and may even have thoughts of death or suicide.

The key is that symptoms represent a sudden change and continue for two weeks or more, especially with a loss of interest in normally enjoyable activities, stresses Nada L. Stotland, M.D., an associate professor of clinical psychiatry at the University of Chicago and coeditor of Psychological Aspects of Women's Health Care (American Psychiatric Press, 1993).

"Symptoms can alsovary with age. For example, a college-age woman who is depressed may have trouble falling asleep, or sleep too much. An older woman may have little trouble falling asleep, but may awaken before she wants to, and can't fall back asleep," Dr. Stotland notes. "Classic depression causes you to lose your appetite and lose weight. But younger people... may soothe themselves by eating too much and gain weight. "Unfortunately, these are not symptoms which are likely to lead a woman to the doctor, because she may be sitting around feeling she's no good, telling herself it doesn't matter anyway, why waste energy seeing a doctor," she adds.

Most surveys find rates of depression among women of color somewhat lower than for their white counterparts. But experts say this may be due in part to differing symptomatology and less access to medical services. Data from the National Lesbian Health Care Survey (a survey of almost two thousand women identifying themselves as lesbian), reported in 1994, showed that 37 percent of respondents had experienced a "long depression or sadness" at some point in the past, and 11 percent were currently experiencing depression (with a like number under treatment). Almost 50 percent of the women surveyed had sought counseling for depression at some time in their lives.

Depression can be triggered by (or coexist with) other mental problems, including eating disorders and anxiety disorders, as well as Alzheimer's dis-ease. In older people depression may even be mistaken for Alzheimer's.

Substance abuse may cause depression (mania can be triggered by co-caine or other stimulants), as can some medications (such as drags to control high blood pressure). Some 40 percent of women stop taking higher-dose oral contraceptives due to depressive symptoms. Major depression can result from medical conditions such as hypothyroidism, or under-active thyroid (see page 34), multiple sclerosis or pancreatic cancer. It can develop after a heart attack or in reaction to another serious illness.

"A complete medical evaluation should rule out substance abuse, the effects of medication or a medical condition, and take into account any recent bereavement and any family history of health problems before a diagnosis of major depression can be made," stresses Dr. Rubenstein.

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