Common Mental Health Problems for Women 421
• Feeling numb or feeling emotions less strongly than
before. She may avoid people or places that remind her
of the trauma.
• Becoming very watchful. If she is constantly looking out
for danger, she may have difficulty relaxing and sleeping.
She may overreact when startled.
• Feeling very angry or full of shame about what
happened. If a person has survived a trauma where
others died or were seriously injured, she may feel guilty
that others suffered more than she did.
• Feeling separate and distant from other people.
• Having outbursts of strange or violent behavior, in which
she is confused about where she is.
Many of these signs are normal responses to a difficult
situation. For example, it is normal to feel angry that a
trauma has happened, or to be watchful if the situation is
still dangerous. But if the signs are so severe that a person
cannot carry out daily activities, or if the signs start months
after the trauma has happened, the person may have a
mental health problem.
➤ People suffering
from reactions to
trauma may also feel
anxious or depressed,
or misuse alcohol or
Physical changes and disease caused by stress
When a person experiences stress, the body gets ready to react quickly
and fight off the stress. Some of the changes that occur are:
• The heart starts beating faster.
• The blood pressure goes up.
• A person breathes faster.
• Digestion slows down.
If the stress is sudden and severe, a woman may feel these changes in her
body. Then, once the stress is gone, her body returns to normal. But if the
stress is less severe or happens slowly, she may not notice how the stress is
affecting her body, even though the signs are still there.
Stress that goes on for a long time can lead to the physical signs common
in anxiety and depression, like headache, intestinal problems, and lack of
energy. Over time, stress can also cause illness, like high blood pressure.
In many places, emotional problems are not considered as important
as physical problems. When this happens, people may be more likely to
have physical signs of anxiety and depression than other signs. While it is
important not to ignore physical signs, it is important to also be sensitive to
the emotional causes of illness.
Where Women Have No Doctor 2012