Mental health: are women at greater risk?

As the majority of frontline healthcare workers and as the gender that takes on the most responsibilities in the home, women were more affected by the Covid-19 pandemic than men were. This has had lasting consequences for their mental helath, making women more susceptible to experiencing depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

We tend to accept worry, stress, anxiety and feelings of sadness or isolation as just the symptoms of our times. But it’s important to check in with your mental health to make sure what you’re experiencing is not something more serious – and something you could seek treatment for in order to feel better. Below, we’ve highlighted the symptoms and signs to look out for if you think you could be experiencing depression, anxiety or PTSD.


It’s normal to experience periods of low moods, but depression is different. It’s marked by long-lasting behavioural changes, sometimes coupled with anxiety, that impact an individual’s ability to show up for themselves and others.

This dark cloud-like feeling hovers continuously and is not something you can ‘just shake off’. If you notice the below symptoms persisting for two or more weeks, it’s recommended that you seek professional help. Despite how challenging things may seem, depression can be managed and treated.

What signs should look out for?

  • Changes in appetit, either eating less or more
  • Lack of theusiasm for the things that usually bring you joy
  • Avoiding socialising and choosing to be alone for extended periods
  • Disrupted or poor-quality sleep
  • Feeling listless
  • A general sense of hopelessness and worthlessness
  • Deep sorrow or feeling entirely numb


There are times when we all feel a little more anxious than usual – during a particularly challenging work prihect, for example, or when there’s a public-speaking opportunity on the horizon. However, anxiety manifests differently. It leads to uncontrollable worry and distress our of porportion to the actual ‘threat’. There fear-driven responses often peak in panic attacks, leaving an individual drained by the repetitive cycle. Anxiety inpacts daily activities and can lead to depression when experienced for a prolonged period.

What signs should you look out for?

  • Battling to control worrying thoughts
  • Sweating, trembling or hyperventilating
  • An increased heart rate, without having done anything physically demanding
  • Ruminating about scenarios that may or may not even happen
  • Constantly feeling as though something bad is going to happen
  • Difficulty sleeping or poor-quality sleep
  • Wanting to avoid situations that make you feel anxious

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Experiencing or even witnessing something traumatic can have mental-health consequences that reach far beyond the event itself. PTSD can be triggered by anything from a life-threatening situation to a natural disaster, or even periods of severe emotional upheaval like the Covid-19 pandemic.

It’s possible for a person of any age to experience PTSD, and you don’t need to be directly involved in a trauma to suffer from it – overexposure to graphic details of traumatic events can induce it too. (Another reason to ditch the doom-scrolling.)

It’s natural to feel afraid during or immediately after an upsetting event, however these feelings should begin to fade in intensity after a few weeks. If, on the other hand, these thought patterns intensify to the point that they’re affecting your daily activities, please consult your doctor or a trained medical practitioner for qualified advice.

It’s important to remember that PTSD can present weeks, months or even years after a trauma. Be kind to yourself and don’t expect that you should ‘just get over it’.

What signs should you look out for?

  • Nightmares or reliving the traumatic events while you’re awake
  • Feeling detached from other people
  • Avoiding certain places because of the association they have with what you’ve experienced
  • Seemingly extreme reactions to noises, touch or other sensory stimulation
  • Panic attacks and heightened anxiety
  • Changes in thinking that reflect an altered view of reality, e.g. ‘I can’t trust anybody’.

Don’t be alarmed

The above mental-health conditions are not at all uncommon, and the Covid-19 pandemic has only axacerbated the mental-health crisis both in South Africa and globally. Know that you aren’t alone but that help is available – and it is possible to feel like yourself again.


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