Women and Mental Health

By Elizabeth Howell; Marjorie Bayes | Go to book overview

22
Women's Treatment Needs

ELIZABETH HOWELL

MARJORIE BAYES

In North America today there are more women than men with diagnosed psychiatric disorders. In clinics and private psychiatric care women predominate, equaling 60 to 75 percent of the patients (Levine, Kamin, and Levine 1974). Outside of the formal psychiatric world we find a multitude of programs, activities, and treatments designed for women. The complexities and informal nature of most of these activities provide little in the way of data, but evidence suggests that, for women, alternate forms of treatment aimed at special needs have proliferated in the past ten years and are not likely to decrease in the future. A few examples are consciousness-raising groups, abortion counseling, family planning, and counseling for the rape victim.

Why do women have special treatment needs? The answers fall into two categories.

First, women must confront particular developmental and sociopsychological issues that are different in some ways from the issues of men. There are aspects of living in which men as well as women may experience difficulty; however, often for women such difficulty has a different etiology, different repercussions, or a different recommended treatment than that of men. Treatment without regard to gender may not address women's particular issues—for example, problematic aspects of menstruation, pregnancy, the mothering role, the midlife transition—and may in other ways be skewed so as to limit intended outcome. Second, women are vulnerable to certain kinds of traumata. As a result of their childbearing capacity, they may need help such as abortion counseling or postmastectomy counseling. As a result of their

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