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How Sexual Harassment Is Affecting The Mental Health Of Women?

Dr A. Sajjad Siddiqui

1 min read

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Sexual harassment and discrimination is a widespread problem for women in all walks of life, be it academia, business or healthcare. Recent studies  and psychiatrists suggest that a history of sexual harassment and abuse could have lasting effects on the health of women. Infact, it is not just mental health being impaired in such cases, but also physical health.

Sexual harassment and abuse not only include cases of physical force, but also includes threats, manipulations, coercion, and non-consensual contact. The statistics show a very high percentage of women being subjected to such behavior everyday.

Sexual harassment and mental health:

The social conditioning of our women is to ‘adjust’ and ‘ignore’ such behavior, because rarely are they able to battle such behavior without being tainted with it themselves. This is why complainants of sexual harassment feel a mixture of shame and fear. However, many women do not speak about their experience, and this ‘secret’ eats away at them, having both psychological and physical impact.

The behavior of friends and family, if they confide in them, can also impact their mental health. It is a natural conclusion that negative reaction from friends and family can worsen the impact of sexual violence on the mental health of victims. It is significant to remember that people with a good social support and help will not have long term impact following harassment or assault.

In a setting of sexual harassment, most victims start to change their behaviour and even clothing to remain safe from predatory behaviour. Their natural selves become so constrained that they stop expressing themselves. A vast majority feels helpless and do not speak up—for fear of loss of a job, or risk to career. Victims stop interacting with the opposite gender, feel unsafe, avoid gaze, even begin to walk and talk differently, and fear to confront the perpetrator.

Sexual harassment puts the victim at risk of developing:

Depression: victims are about three times more likely to develop depression.

Post-traumatic stress disorder: they may feel anxiety even in the new workplace, days or months after an episode.

Anxiety: the risk of developing anxiety is almost twice more in victims of harassment.

Eating disorders:they may stop eating food, or eating more to combat stress

Substance abuse disorder: many victims take up smoking or other drugs afterwards.  

Insomnia:sleeping disorders such as insomnia are common in victims who experience harassment or assault.

Sexual harassment and physical health:

For victims, sexual harassment is a form of stress and trauma, and the body deals with it as such, even after the episode. This means that the body is constantly releasing stress hormone like cortisol to combat these effects. It can cause raised blood sugar, hypertension, hardening of vessels and increased risk of heart diseases.

For victims of sexual harassment, the struggle is constant even long after. To prevent the long term physical and mental impact, it is important to seek support from friends, family and even therapy.

You can easily book an appointment with a top psychiatrist in Karachi, Lahore and Rawalpindi through oladoc.com, or call our helpline at 042-3890-0939 for assistance to find the RIGHT professional for your concerns.

Disclaimer: The contents of this article are intended to raise awareness about common health issues and should not be viewed as sound medical advice for your specific condition. You should always consult with a licensed medical practitioner prior to following any suggestions outlined in this article or adopting any treatment protocol based on the contents of this article.

Dr A. Sajjad Siddiqui - Author Dr. A. Sajjad Siddiqui is a Psychiatrist practicing in Multan. Dr. A. Sajjad Siddiqui has the following degrees: MBBS, MSc (Psychiatric Practice - UK), MRCPsych (UK), CCT (UK) and has 14 years of experience. You can book an appointment with Dr. A. Sajjad Siddiqui by calling us or using the 'book appointment' button. He loves to write on healthcare to raise awareness about general healthcare issues in Pakistan and advise patients on healthy living. If you wish to read his healthcare articles and advice, please visit the following links:
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