An important issue that must be addressed concerning women with diseases (i. e. cancer, arthritis, etc) or even menopause is self-esteem. The backdrop of a supportive family life is a key factor in the self-esteem of such women and without this support depression is inevitable. The following paper will delve into how self-esteem is affected by disease and other women’s health issues. It will also give support to the concept that self-esteem lowers depression and thus with a more healthy attitude such diseases and changes of life can be overcome or have fair less of a detrimental affect on women’s health.
An unsupportive family adds more psychological distress among cancer patients which leads to higher levels of depression. Depression arises from low self-esteem which is also a factor in a patient’s sense of mastery over a disease. If a patient feels as though they are in control, that they are still capable of achieving their diurnal routines then the disease has little affect on them psychologically.
If, however, the disease affects their routine and the ability to achieve certain simple tasks such as going to the bathroom alone, then their inability to control their illness allows for low self-esteem which subsequently leads to depression. Thus, it is important to state that master or control over a disease, illness, or change of life gives the woman power over her disease and the reverse. The idea of control leads to better mental adjustment with cancer patients and this psychological adjustment allows for high self-esteem and better recovery because endorphins are multitudinous.
Norton et al. (2005) state in Ovarian Cancer Patients’ Psychological Distress,” A potential reason that unsupportive behaviors may evoke psychological distress reactions among people dealing with cancer or any serious illness is the threat that such responses may pose to self-esteem. People who are dealing with a life-threatening illness look to close friends and family for validation of their self-worth. If close others not only fail to provide validation but are either overtly unsupportive or avoidant, then this may harm the person's self-esteem and ultimately result in increased distress”.
Higher self-esteem among cancer patients is very reliant upon a supportive family unit as well as friends. Any negative connotations that may exist within a peer group or within the family dynamic become precursor’s to a cancer patient’s further depression and sense of self-worth. In order then to achieve lower levels of psychological distress and high self-esteem family becomes very important to the cancer patient’s ultimate outcome. Self-esteem among women is an issue of the reflection of their potential strength.
If there is an unsupportive spouse with the cancer patient then the likely hood of psychological distress is accomplished. The mental well being of a female cancer patient is detrimental to the possible outcome of their disease as Norton et al state, “One study has shown that unsupportive spouse behaviors impacted patients' psychological distress via self-esteem such that higher levels of unsupportive behaviors were related to lower self-esteem and, in turn, to greater psychological distress. Thus, self-esteem served as a mediator in the relationship between unsupportive spouse behaviors and psychological distress.”
The continual positive interaction between the female patient and her support group then is proven to be an effective treatment towards the disease in the area of mental health since self-esteem gives the patient a certain strength by which they believe they can ‘beat’ their disease. Although spouses are key supporters in the issue of women’s self-esteem when dealing with disease and other illnesses the role of family and friends must not be overlooked. In a situation where a close friend, family member or spouse is affected by cancer, or any other illness it is difficult to adjust to this new change.
The patient’s family unit, or spouse, or friend may not quickly comprehend the situation nor know exactly their key role in providing support for the patient. Thus, often times the family, friend or spouse will ignore the situation with subtle avoidance or may even significantly withdraw from the patient in order to have to not deal with the situation. This withdrawal leads to signs of psychological distress with the patient and this added distress ultimately leads to low self-esteem which causes depression and allows for the illness to heighten in intensity as Norton et al. state, “…patients who perceived higher levels of negative responses from their family and friends were also more likely to report lower self-esteem.
Furthermore, patients who reported lower levels of self-esteem also reported greater psychological distress. An examination of the indirect effects revealed that the indirect effect of unsupportive behaviors on distress via self-esteem was highly significant. ” The female patient’s change in body perception was also an added stressor in lower self-esteem.
An illness and disease drastically changes the female patient’s physical appearance. Not only can an illness or disease cause inability to perform simple tasks but it also negatively affects the body which in turn creates another psychological distress towards the patient. In cases of ovarian cancer the female patient is even more susceptible towards having low self-esteem because by definition a woman is a woman because of what she is capable of creating; a child as Norton states, “The present findings also suggest potential areas for future research.
Longitudinal studies should be conducted to clarify the causal relationships among these variables. It would also be interesting to evaluate additional illness-related or interpersonal stressors. For instance, illness-related stressors such as uncontrolled pain and interpersonal stressors such as loss of social embeddedness over the course of ovarian cancer (e. g. , erosion of support network due to geographical changes) or conflict with health care providers could be examined”.
With this key definition taken away from the patient issues of identity and self-worth become more and more of a concern. With identity becoming less known because of the defining nature of womanhood succumbing to an illness (or menopause) the restrictions of function of the female body put distress on the patient. In the case of menopause the support of family and friends is extremely important. It must also be mentioned that other disease may be battled and won but with menopause the woman’s function as a woman cannot be regained.
Thus, her key role in the evolution and creation of life is no longer applicable and so, the female patient must cope with an entire new identity. This added stress does not bode well for healthy ‘recovery’ and as Norton et al. state, “If perceived control and self-esteem help explain the detrimental impact of other illness-related and interpersonal stressors, respectively, on patients' psychological distress, then simply identifying the nature of a stressor could be an indication of which personal resources interventions should target in order to effectively reduce distress”.
One important factor that has been overlooked is the significance of women relating to other women who have had the same disease or illness. The communication in group therapy of one-on-one sessions with these women have proven to enhance self-esteem. Women who have already gone through the disease or illness such as a mastectomy give a great hand of support to women who are only initially going through the process. The sense that survival and life continuing after such a procedure is very supportive in nature and gives succor to mastectomy patients.
The women who have already gone through a mastectomy give their support to women who are only just beginning the process and this adds to higher self-esteem because the new patients realize that surviving is possible as Dirksen (2000) states in Predicting Well-being Among Breast Cancer Survivors, “The strong significant relationship between resourcefulness and self-esteem suggests that greater resourcefulness positively impacts feelings of self-worth, and is an important factor in maintaining a sense of self.
Empirical findings support this relationship in late-stage cancer patients, as feelings regarding self are influenced by the belief that one can personally control the demands of their environment. The small positive influence of resourcefulness and self-esteem in predicting adjustment is supported by prior survivorship research in which sense of control and self-esteem were strongly associated with successful adjustment”. Thus, self-esteemed can be measured by the impact of other survivors of the same illness and their positive influence.
The issues of self-esteem and women’s health are very definitely integral to discovering positive influences to lower depression and distress during an illness. Women find support from their friends, family and spouses and if their support system ignores the illness then they are ignoring the patient. When this occurs depression sets in which has a noted adverse affect on the recovery of a patient. Thu, a positive support system is key in overcoming an illness.
Women’s health issues range from ovarian cancer, breast implants, menopause and a whole list of diseases, illnesses and other detrimental life occurrences. It must be stated that not only is a strong base of family and friends important to recovery but also the support and friendship of other women who have survived the same ordeal as Dirksen states, “Notes kept by the investigator during the study indicate that for many of the women who had a mastectomy, the supportive help from other women who had also lost a breast was of immense value in reducing anxiety and improving self-confidence.”
It is then proven the tie between self-esteem and disease is intertwined. A woman can overcome an illness by believing she has control over that illness and this can be done by daily affirmation from the aforementioned support groups. Self-esteem is a very large contributing factor to the outcome of women’s health issues and if a woman feels as though she has control through the affirmation of her family then an illness can be conquered in some regards.