56 chapter 3: Mental health
ANXIETY (FEELING NERVOUS OR WORRIED)
If feelings of nervousness or worry (other common names for anxiety are ‘nerves,’
‘nervous attacks,’ and ‘heart distress’) continue for a long time or become more
severe, then you may have a mental health problem.
• feeling tense and nervous without reason
• feeling the heart pound (when there is no heart disease)
• frequent physical complaints that are not caused by physical
illness and that increase when you are upset
Panic attacks are a severe kind of anxiety. They happen suddenly
and can last from several minutes to several hours. In addition to
the signs above, you may feel terror or dread, and fear you may lose
consciousness (faint) or die. You may also have chest pain, difficulty
breathing, and feel that something terrible is about to happen.
When something horrible has happened to a woman, she has suffered a trauma.
Some of the most common kinds of trauma are violence in the home, rape, war,
torture, and natural disasters. Trauma threatens a woman’s physical and mental
well-being. As a result, she feels unsafe, insecure, helpless, and unable to trust the
world or the people around her. It can take a long time for a woman to recover from
trauma, especially if it was caused by another person.
Disability caused by trauma
When a woman becomes disabled later in life, because of war, an accident, or an illness,
the sudden change can be very difficult for her. Some women who are newly disabled
may feel they have lost all worth to themselves, their families, and communities. They
may also be afraid or disturbed because of trauma.
Often, a woman who becomes disabled later in life has grown up with
confidence, good education, and many skills. She may have always had strong
relationships with others and expects to be treated with respect. When she becomes
disabled, it can take time to adjust to the changes in her body. It can be even harder
to adapt to the changes in how other people see her, or how she sees herself.
Many women who become disabled later in life say they had to make a decision
not to give up. Even though they felt sad and shocked, they realized they had
choices about how to live their lives. (See Annie’s story on page 63.)
A Health Handbook for Women with Disabilities 2007