November is Woman Abuse Awareness Month in Ontario

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I was driving the other day and saw a banner proclaiming that November is Woman Abuse Awareness Month.  I have been “tweeting” with Girl Guides of Canada and a few others today about how each of us promote girls’ self-esteem and I wondered if low self-esteem is related to being abused as a woman.

While looking for information, I found 14 characteristics of abused women on Dr. Annie Kaszina’s blog.  (Go to her website for more information.)

Dr. Annie listed the following (I put things related to low self-esteem in bold):

*It is important to remember that characteristics are not the same as character or nature.

The 14 characteristics common to abused women are:

  • Abused women have to guess at what normal behaviour is.
  • Abused women have difficulty maintaining their focus and drive.
  • Abused women are often paralysed by their own negativity so that they find it hard to start something new and an uphill struggle to see it through.
  • Abused women judge themselves without mercy.
  • Abused women feel they always have to justify themselves.
  • Abused women have difficulty being light-hearted.
  • Abused women have difficulty trusting.
  • Abused women take everything very seriously.
  • Abused women overreact and catastrophize even over small problems.
  • Abused women faithfully record every last criticism they experience and they discount the praise.
  • Abused women need approval and affirmation and tend to look for it in all the wrong places.
  • Abused women usually feel that they are different to other people as a result of their relationship.
  • Abused women are extremely loyal, even despite the evidence that their loyalty is undeserved.
  • Abused women envisage a future that will be just as hard as the present.

Dr. Annie also says, “Whether or not you feel able to shift these characteristics right now, please bear in mind that they are superimposed, they are not an integral part of you.”

I had a hunch that low self-esteem could lead to being in an abusive relationship, but Dr. Annie highlights specific traits that emphasize this.  It is so important to become a confident young woman in order for that high self-esteem to translate into adulthood.  I would also like to point out that although there are common characteristics for abused women, abuse is never ok and it is never the abused person’s fault.  I just want girls to know that if they continue down a path of negativity and self-deprication and don’t treat themselves well, it can allow someone else to also not treat them well.

Remember that you are unique and you have the power to do anything.  You are wonderful and deserve to be treated with respect and dignity.

…I wouldn’t want her to deal with depression on her own.

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Did you know that, according to the A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia in 2011 (you can find the article at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0002486/), adolescent girls are twice as likely to experience depression than adolescent boys?  This is one scary statistic.  So, why do young girls become depressed?

Depression is described as being sad, discouraged, and un-motivated.  It can also be a loss of self-worth and a lack of interest in things you used to enjoy.  There are many varied factors that can cause a young girl to be depressed.  The A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia says that depression can be caused by maturing and changing hormones or all different kinds of stress/disturbing events like physical or sexual abuse, bullying, learning disabilities, conflicts with your parents, failing in school, breaking up with your significant other or the death of someone close to you.  You are more likely to become depressed because of one of these events if you feel helpless or are too critical of yourself or if it runs in your family.  A lot of young people with depression also experience other mental health issues like anxiety, an eating disorder, ADHD, or Bi-Polar disorder.

It is extremely important to let someone in on what you’re feeling if you are experiencing depression.  It is ok to feel depressed and it is out of your control.  You don’t need to feel ashamed to tell a relative, teacher, doctor, friend’s parent, or friend that you trust.  Once you tell someone, you have started the process of healing.  You don’t have to face depression alone.  Remember that.  Also, I want you to know that it can get better.

There are several ways to treat true depression (by true depression, I mean the kind that consumes your life and you can’t simply will it away).  You can seek supportive care from your doctor, talk therapy (this is also something to be embraced and not feel ashamed of), or in some cases, you can be prescribed anti-depressant medications.

Depression, like any mental health disorder, does not make you “crazy”.  Many people experience a mental health disorder during the course of their life.  You are not alone and there is support out there for you.

A great resource is the National Institute of Mental Health website.  Here is the web address for their support page:

http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/getting-help-locate-services/index.shtml

Thank you to the A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia found on the website for the U.S. National Library of Medicine for the facts about adolescent depression.