Women in need of mental health help called ‘hormonal’ or ‘overthinkers’

Samantha Redgrave-Hogg
By Samantha Redgrave-Hogg,
updated on Jul 18, 2023

Women looking out of window

New research finds that young women in need of mental health support feel overlooked. What do the labels of being ‘dramatic’ and ‘hormonal’ say about the gaslighting culture of dismissing women, and how can they feel heard when struggling?

A survey of more than 2,000 women aged 18 to 34 conducted by the suicide prevention charity Campaign Against Living Miserably (Calm) has revealed that one-fifth (19%) of those surveyed feel ‘invisible’ when attempting to talk about their mental health experiences.

What could be the reason for these fears and concerns? The YouGov survey uncovered that one-quarter (27%) were told their issues could be down to ‘hormones’, while one-fifth of the women surveyed (20%) were asked unequivocally if they were “on their period”. The survey also found that 22% were worried about being seen as ‘attention-seeking’.

Women, mental health, and self-worth

Do these worrying statistics highlight a deeper issue at play here? I’m sure lots of women have been told to “Stop being a drama queen” or “You’re just overthinking the whole thing” before, and so it can feel especially alarming when being confronted with the same dismissive attitude when asking for help.

For me, being seen as ‘dramatic’ undermines the fundamental relationship we have with ourselves as women. And when we honour that self-relationship, we are able to listen attentively to our body, mind, and internal experiences. This becomes the bedrock for our relationship with others and the world around us. When self-worth is such a buzzword, why is gaslighting still happening in women’s health, and what does calling women “dramatic” really say about the female experience?

No, I’m not on my period

It feels to me that being labelled as ‘hormonal’ in any context is a quick way to make sure that person’s true experience isn't validated. When women reach out for support of any kind, it’s not because they are creating ‘a fuss’, it’s because they feel in urgent need of help. This survey got me thinking about the dilemma women face when in crisis. What’s our choice here, to call out for help with the risk of being labelled ‘dramatic’, or keep quiet and risk our mental health?

If someone questions, “Are you on your period?” I’m basically just hearing, ‘What you're feeling doesn’t count’. What we feel is valid and needs to be seen and heard. So, isn’t it time that the ‘hormonal’ stereotype is challenged, calling out this culture of dismissing real experiences as irrational?

Raising awareness of mental health

Calm’s chief executive, Simon Gunning talks about women’s mental health experiences as being “disregarded as over-emotional, hormonal or attention-seeking”, going on to say:

We must take immediate action and strive to overcome the stigma that hinders women from receiving the recognition they deserve during times of crisis.

There is more positive news to hear. Raising awareness of the increasing rates of female suicide across the UK, Calm has joined forces with England Lioness, Fran Kirby, who appears in a short film exploring how women can feel discounted or invisible when struggling with suicidal thoughts and depression. She wants to highlight the issue of suicide and make sure women are getting the help they need. “Like any team, we all have our part to play in making sure young women feel seen when they reach out.”

If you aren't in immediate danger but are having suicidal thoughts, you may find it helpful to visit Counselling Directory's suicidal thoughts page. This explores why we have suicidal thoughts and what you can look for in a counsellor. If you are in immediate danger, please call 999.

Mental health support

We understand how difficult it is to seek help for mental health support. We’re passionate about making the process as seamless as possible, providing you with the much-needed tools and resources to make the journey as easy as it can be. If you’re feeling affected by this study, you may find it useful to reach out to a counsellor for one-to-one support or speak to the Samaritans for help. If the worry of being disregarded has resonated with you, you may like to read:

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