An individual whether a man or a woman has similar psychological needs but how active any need is in a woman depends on how society has shaped her. Whether she is capable of acknowledging her needs and to act in order to fulfill them depends on the conditioning she has. Earlier the notion of a woman being merely someone’s daughter, wife or a mother has been long challenged and women of the 21st century see themselves a lot more than this. They are individuals first, who have a set of needs, goals, and aspirations of their own.
The female population makes up almost half of the world's population. It is of utmost importance that women also enjoy equal opportunities in all walks of life and have true freedom to make their own choices and decisions. However, due to social constructs such as gender roles, patriarchy, stereotypes and prejudices against women, many women in our society are still making compromises of their true choices. Letting go of what one really wants in his or her life can be mentally distressing.
Social barriers still do not let a large population of women to be themselves. This may include not being able to study enough, getting married by a certain age due to societal or family pressure, not being into professions that are male-dominated, making a choice between career and marriage, facing gender discrimination at work, wage-gap, and many more.
According to WHO, gender is seen to be a critical determinant in mental health concerns as per substantial research body and women are at greater risk of clinical disorders such as depression, anxiety, and somatic complaints when combined with gender-based roles, stressors, and negative life experiences and events in their lives.
Due to changing trends, women have been constantly trying to break stereotypes in the context of job types, interests and hobbies. The gender roles are less rigid, women are not just nurturers now, they are providers too. In the era of women earning for themselves and their families, they are facing certain concerns too. They have to juggle multiple roles and this can put a lot of pressure on them risking them to mental health concerns.
There could be multiple factors behind the vulnerability of women. Be it cultural inhibitions, lack of financial support, lack of opportunities, gender-based discrimination or personal responsibilities, women often give up on themselves, their passions, dreams, and aspirations. Women empowerment in society facilitates to bring equality for both genders and helps women by providing them strength and courage to become the decision maker of their own lives.
Factors that adversely affect women’s mental health
There are things considered right or wrong for women by the society. These arise out of the social constructs and gender characteristics. Stereotype leading to poor mental health of women may include pressure to take up a career they don’t like because it is considered a respectable profession for them such as teaching or medical. Expectations to be a good cook and homemaker can be other examples.
Include the roles that are put on an individual due to his or her gender identity, for example, a woman is considered to be a caregiver, she is expected to become a mother someday. A woman who let’s say is an entrepreneur and wants to nurture her start-up instead of children at a certain point in time in her life. She feels she is not ready to be a mother, she is looked down upon. Family, relatives, society put pressure on her, questions her choice. This can be a major source of stress for women and risk her for mental health issues.
Even stereotypes, gender roles, social barriers such as patriarchy, develop prejudices against women. Gender discrimination in the professional front is one of the biggest examples of prejudice. Women are not given job roles that can be physically challenging as they are not considered ‘Manly’ enough. Women are not considered good leaders in the work front. They are considered bad drivers, technologically backward. These are all prejudices.
A woman faces psychological distress a lot of times in her life. When there is any transition from one phase to another, it requires psychological adjustment. For women, it may involve getting married, going to in-laws house, becoming a mother, maintaining a work-life balance. Whenever there is a new role adding on to her life there can be stress and conflicts, the environment shall provide support to her or it may become mentally exhaustive for a woman.
A woman’s body too, goes through a lot of changes. Starting right from adolescence to late adulthood. When puberty is attained there are a lot of hormonal changes, contributing to a lot of emotional and mood changes. There is a need for adult support at this time. When a woman goes through pregnancy and childbirth there are again a lot of physical and emotional changes that happen. Many women after childbirth are also at risk of Postpartum Depression due to these changes. Many women are not even aware of the emotional changes and all this is manifested in their professional and personal lives as mood regulation issues.
How Can Counseling Bring Women Empowerment?
Empowering women psychologically by Counseling process would include working on building their self-esteem and self-efficacy by focusing on how they see themselves.
Counseling can help you develop self-awareness so that you can understand and address your physical as well as emotional needs in a better way.
It can help you enhance self- confidence and gain positivity about who you are, be proud of what your journey has been and the battles you have fought.
Counseling can ultimately lead to the overall wellbeing and happiness of women. Through counseling, you can be the woman who has the capacity to increase self-image and conquer stigma.
Gain awareness and cope with the stress and trauma of the past, present as well as future.
In the beginning, two sessions are required to form a rapport with the client as this is the base of a therapeutic relationship between the counselor and client. This includes listening to your concern in detail, providing an environment where you can freely share the challenges you are facing. The main focus is given to you as a person, your individuality is explored.
Since the therapy aims to work on your empowerment that would include working on the person you are, initial 3-4 therapy sessions, therefore, try to understand what life events have shaped you and your identity. How your ideas and viewpoints are different from those around you, these differences cause interpersonal as well as intrapersonal conflicts leading to extreme sadness, mood disturbances and loss of interest. Based on these therapy goals are .
After discussing the ‘why’ aspect of the problems, thought patterns, core beliefs, regarding your gender identity and behaviors leading to low self-perception, self-fulfilling prophecies and confused ideas of self are working upon. Certain core beliefs may be discovered such as “I am not capable”, “I am not good enough”, “I am bad at Maths, Driving, Direction, etc” are challenged and changed using therapy techniques such as CBT, REBT. Many tasks here are to change your narrative of what and how you are.
Follow up sessions help the counselor to understand how you are implementing the insight and techniques taught to real-life situations. Any challenge you encounter are then addressed in these sessions.
Adolescence can be a very challenging time for girls as they are undergoing so many physical and hormonal changes. There are a lot of female specific issues that are considered taboo and are talked about in a hushed manner, which makes it very difficult to get the right guidance. At this stage it can be very healthy to have someone to talk to in an open and safe space.
Most women are still not encouraged to give their careers top priority and are supposed to have a job mostly as a hobby or as a source of extra income. They are primarily supposed to take care of the family’s needs, which can be especially stressful for women who love their jobs and choose to focus on their careers. These are personal choices which should be accepted and respected.
Marriage is a big change in a women's life as they have to adjust in a completely new family and take many new responsibilities. And for some working women getting married is added pressure from family and society. Through understanding and communication we are able to find some common grounds and create amicable atmosphere around us .
Childbirth is nothing short of a miracle and can be a life altering experience for a lot of women but for some, pregnancy can be quite distressing as well. And unplanned pregnancies within as well as outside of marriage can be particularly stressful. By keeping a positive and rational outlook towards life decisions we are better able to handle such stressful situations.
Gender Based Discrimination
We hear so much about women empowerment and how it is the need of the hour but still women all across different strata of society encounter some or the other form of gender based discrimination. It happens at home, school, college and even in offices. It can be very helpful to have a strong support system and we as a community need to acknowledge women as equals.
Pregnancy is a beautiful yet challenging journey and hence it is necessary to be mentally prepared for the physical as well as emotional changes that accompany this phase. Undoubtedly having a baby is a beautiful gift but it's important to set realistic expectations from this experience to better prepare oneself for the onslaught of changes that a woman undergoes.
Conflicts are commonplace and occur when there are disagreements or clashes about ideologies, beliefs etc, and families are no exception to it either. In a society like ours, where we mostly have joint families, such situations are nothing new, especially among -in. Positive conflict resolution and open communication are the pillars of healthy, happy relationships.
The definition of beauty is quite subjective. As it's said that beauty lies in the eye of the beholder, the idea is not to view yourself from other people's eyes but to see yourself through your own perspective as a unique individual. No matter what size one wears, or what color our skin is, we are beautiful just the same. Let's not other people's perspective of beauty diminish our self esteem and sense of self-worth.
Disclaimer: Please note that we are not a crisis intervention helpline. Should you have severe symptoms or have thought about harming yourself, please seek immediate medical help or call suicide prevention helplines such as
Aasra 24x7 Helpline: 91-22-27546669