Teenage mental illness is a difficult subject for many parents to discuss, but the stigma is even greater for girls. The fear of sexism has, unfortunately, stifled frank discussions regarding the frequency with which girls experience mental illness when compared to boys. Indeed, this disparity follows women throughout their lives. Research clearly supports an increased risk and incidence of mental illness for girls; however, many mental health professionals may be hesitant to acknowledge this fact.
Facts about Gender and Mental Health
Statistics have long supported key differences in the mental and emotional challenges men and women face. Although, based on lifetime averages, men are more prone to substance abuse and antisocial disorders, women are significantly more likely to suffer from depression, anxiety, eating disorders and sleep problems.
Some experts speculate that men are less willing to seek help and thus their problems go unreported. The research generally discounts this theory, however. Some possible reasons for the disparity include the greater likelihood of women being suffering abuse and trauma coupled with the increased level of social pressures that women face. Recent research also suggests that basic biological and genetic differences may be to blame as well.
Factors Related to Childhood and Adolescence
Prior to puberty, the numbers of children suffering from anxiety and depression are virtually identical between the sexes. After that, however, girls become twice as likely to suffer from mood and emotional disorders, according to the Child Mind Institute.* Although no specific cause has been identified for this disparity, doctors suggest it may be due to evolutionary factors. Lifestyle changes related to the modern social structure should mitigate the disparity, yet it remains constant year after year.
Treatment Options for Girls
Depending on their age, younger girls may not even be aware that a problem exists. For tweens and teens, social perceptions and stigmas may stand in the way of their seeking help. Consequently, parents, caregivers, teachers and guidance counselors may have to intervene. Many girls hesitate to talk to their parents about what they are feeling, fearing they won’t be taken seriously.
Potential treatment options range from traditional talk therapy to medication. Although medical practitioners often suggest medication as a quick fix, drugs should be considered only in serious and professionally diagnosed mental disorders. Many safe and integrative programs exist today that are designed specifically to help girls and young women. Group therapy and experiential approaches offer a safe and effective way to address mental illness in teenage girls.
Havenwood Academy understands the unique challenges that girls face. Their residential treatment programs utilize experiential therapy and other proven modalities to help young women overcome the many problems they may encounter. Their programs focus on creating an environment for change and success, and a safe place where teens can find their way back to health and happiness. Contact Havenwood today to learn more about helping your daughter cope with teenage mental illness challenges.