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Are Women at a Mental Health “Breaking Point”?

Are Women at a Mental Health “Breaking Point”?

This material has been reviewed for accuracy by: Renee Albers, PhD

graphic showing broken pencil with text “2 out of 3 women diagnosed with depression or anxiety say they are at or near their breaking pointTwo out of three women diagnosed with depression or anxiety say they have reached or are approaching their breaking point with regard to their mental health. That’s according to our latest nationwide survey, the GeneSight® Mental Health Monitor. Four out of 10 women without a diagnosis of depression or anxiety say they have reached or are reaching this point.

Two out of three women diagnosed with depression or anxiety say they have reached or are approaching their breaking point with regard to their mental health, the survey reports.

A breaking point is different for everyone, but it can be a combination of feeling frustrated, angry, overwhelmed, depressed or anxious, in a way that prevents you from being yourself and doing your everyday activities. In the GeneSight survey, four in 10 women not previously diagnosed with anxiety or depression also responded that they have reached or are reaching this breaking point.

The good news is that effective treatment options for depression and anxiety are available – if women are able to connect to these resources.

The Pressure Facing Women

Many mental health professionals are not surprised that women have been feeling an increased sense of burden.

“The extra toll on women’s mental health makes sense given what we know about how many women have had to leave the workforce in order to care for children or other family members at home, or are dealing with an impossible and constant juggling act of kids, plus career, plus other responsibilities,” according to Naomi Torres-Mackie, Ph.D., head of research at the Mental Health Coalition, in Verywell Mind.

Mental health clinician BJ Fancher, DMSc, reviews a GeneSight report. Dr. Fancher encourages women to seek help for their mental health challengesShe says when these responsibilities add up, “it becomes harder for women to care for themselves, which in turn affects their mental health.”

Women may feel pressure that prevents them from speaking up or seeking treatment for depression and anxiety symptoms.

“Women often feel pressure to ‘hold it all together’ and not admit when they are struggling,” Dr. Betty Jo “BJ” Fancher, a family medicine and psychiatric physician assistant with a doctorate of medical science and a masters in psychopharmacology, tells GeneSight.

“Yet, if you are sobbing on the floor of your shower, throwing things in anger or repeatedly screaming into a pillow, these are signals that you have crossed a line and should see a healthcare provider about your mental health.”

The (Delayed) Road to Seeking Treatment

graphic showing calendar changing from 2021 to 2022 with text “51% of women diagnosed with depression or anxiety waited at least one year before seeking treatment

According to the GeneSight survey, more than half (51%) of women diagnosed with anxiety and/or depression waited at least one year before seeking treatment – or never sought treatment at all.

Along with feeling pressure to “hold it all together,” some women are reluctant to seek help based on how their mental health concerns have been received by family and friends.

Six in 10 of the women surveyed with depression or anxiety diagnosis say they have been ignored or dismissed by family, friends, and/or partners about their mental health concerns. Less than half of women (44%) say they talk to friends or family to relieve stress and anxiety, according to the survey.

Many women reported they thought their anxiety and depression symptoms were “just a phase,” with half of the women responding: “I didn’t want anyone to know I was struggling.”

graphic of drawing of woman with text “6 in 10 women diagnosed with depression or anxiety said that taking a prescription medication was the most helpful step in treating their symptoms

However, these conditions, while they can feel heavy or complicated, are treatable. The Anxiety & Depression Association of America (ADAA) notes that “several forms of psychotherapy are effective” in treating anxiety and depression, and medication can be useful.

“Symptoms of depression and anxiety disorders often occur together, and research shows that both respond to treatment with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) and serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI) medications,” the ADAA website states.

In the GeneSight Mental Health Monitor, six in 10 women diagnosed with depression or anxiety agree that taking a prescription medication was the most helpful step in treating their anxiety or depression symptoms, more than any other action or treatment option offered in the survey, including therapy.

Getting Help When You Need It

Ansley Fancher takes prescription medication for mental health condition in her kitchen, reflecting need to reach out for mental health help when needed.

It’s important to reach out for help when needed. Healthcare providers can provide women with treatment plans based on their unique symptoms and other health factors.

And when medication is recommended, clinicians may use personalized genetic testing. The GeneSight test, for example, offers clinicians genetic information about their patients to help them understand how they may metabolize or respond to certain medications that are commonly used to treat depression, anxiety, ADHD and other mental health conditions.

In the survey, only about 30% of women who have been prescribed psychiatric medication are aware of genetic testing that may help their physicians with prescribing decisions, and only 8% of women have been tested.

It’s important to be aware of all of the resources that are available to help. When it’s not just a bad day, it’s a bad couple of weeks – or when you or someone you love can’t shake it off anymore, or you feel stuck – it’s time to find support.

graphic of drawing of woman doctor with text “67% of women diagnosed wished their doctor had told them about genetic testing for medication outcomes”“The GeneSight Mental Health Monitor found that women are waiting more than a year – longer than they should – to get the mental health treatment they need,” noted Rachael Earls, PhD, a medical science liaison with Myriad Genetics, makers of the GeneSight test. “It is critical to receive treatment for mental health because we know that mental health conditions are highly comorbid with other physical diseases, such as cancer, stroke, heart disease. Why live with a mental health condition that can impact every aspect of your life until you reach a breaking point?”

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Our articles are for informational purposes only and are reviewed by our Medical Information team, which includes PharmDs, MDs, and PhDs. Do not make any changes to your current medications or dosing without consulting your healthcare provider.

The GeneSight test must be ordered by and used only in consultation with a healthcare provider who can prescribe medications. As with all genetic tests, the GeneSight test results have limitations and do not constitute medical advice. The test results are designed to be just one part of a larger, complete patient assessment, which would include proper diagnosis and consideration of your medical history, other medications you may be taking, your family history, and other factors.

If you are a healthcare provider and interested in learning more about the GeneSight test, please contact us at 855.891.9415. If you are a patient, please talk with your doctor to see if the GeneSight test may be helpful.