Women and Depression

, Health A2Z

As women, we have many roles in life including mother, wife, employee, friend, healer, caregiver and the list goes on. The complexity of all these roles can lead to ups and downs throughout the life.

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Some of these mood swings may be due to life events such as talking to a friend or hormones like pregnancy, menstrual cycle.

Generally, after a few days, your emotions tend to stabilize and you do not feel depressed anymore. But if you suffer from depression, your “losses” do not disappear after a few days and can affect the activities and relationships of your daily life.

This can be a debilitating cycle and can occur for a number of reasons. The symptoms can last for weeks, months or years and can occur intermittently or once.

Depression affects women almost twice as often as men and tends to have different causes in women than in men. Contributing factors are reproductive hormones, another woman’s response to stress and social pressures that are unique to a woman’s life experiences. The following are the most common forms of depression in women.

  • Major Depression
  • Postpartum Depression
  • Persistent Depressive Disorder
  • Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder

What is Depression?

It is a pervasive and serious mood disorder. It causes feelings of sadness, helplessness, hopelessness, and worthlessness.

Depression can be mild to moderate with symptoms of apathy, difficulty in sleeping, little appetite, low self-esteem, and low-grade fatigue. Or it can be more severe.

Depression is also defined as a mental health disorder, characterized by loss of interest in activities and depressed mood, that cause significant impairment in daily life.

What Causes Depression in Women?

There is a number of genetic, psychological, hormonal, and social factors that cause depression in women.

Biology and Hormones:

Biologically, the depression runs in families – with some scientific evidence shows that unusual genetic makeups are more prone to depression, whereas few genetic makeups are more resistant to it.

Though, some environmental factors are also responsible for the genetic predispositions. Because that person may be more prone to depression due to her genes, family and social relationships.

Other hormonal and biological factors are also possible to increase the chances of depression such as during pregnancy, fertility, menopause, perimenopause and menstrual cycles. Most of these possibilities are due to rapid fluctuation and hormonal imbalances in reproductive hormones.

Health problems, in general, especially those with disability or chronic illness can prompt depression in women or medical life changes like frequent dieting and smoking cessation.

Psychological Causes:

Several studies have shown that women are more prone to psychological causes of depression than men. With a tendency to be more emotional, women are more likely to repeat negative thoughts during periods of depression.

Research has shown that thinking about depression can cause it to last longer and even make it worse. In contrast, men tend to divert themselves from their depressive state which helps in reducing the duration of depression’s symptoms.

Further psychological factors that tend to affect women over men are their negative body images and stress-induced depression, this is because women have increased levels of progesterone hormones that have been shown to prevent stress hormones from leveling out.

Negative body image issues usually occur in adolescence and seem to be associated with the onset of puberty in women.

Social Causes:

Coping skills, lifestyle choices, and choice of relationships affect most women differently than men. As a woman, you are more likely to develop depression from marital or relationship problems, financial troubles, work-life balance issues, and stressful life events, such as the loss of a loved one.

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Signs and Symptoms Related to Depression:

Signs and symptoms of depression vary from woman to woman, few of them are listed below;

  • Feelings of hopelessness, emptiness, despair, and sadness.
  • Irritability and anxiousness.
  • Feelings of exhaustion.
  • Loss of interest in pleasurable activities.
  • Inability to concentrate or remember details.
  • Suicidal thoughts.
  • Sleep disturbances.
  • Changes in appetite.
  • Physical symptoms like aches, headaches, digestive issues, cramps, breast tenderness, and bloating.
  • Lack of energy.
  • Mood swings and feelings of tearfulness.
  • Panic attacks.
  • Tension.
  • Disinterest in daily activities and relationships.

Treatment Options for Depression:

If you are a woman and experiencing the so-called disease ‘depression,’ it is best to seek treatment right away to improve the quality of life. Your first course of action should be a visit to your doctor or mental health professional.

The doctor will ask a series of questions related to symptoms and duration and perform tests to rule out an underlying medical condition causing depression or determine if certain medications might be to blame for your depressed mental state.

If the doctor suspects the person may be suffering from depression, the doctor will refer the patient to a mental health specialist who can formally diagnose the condition and make recommendations for treatment.

Why is Depression in Women More Common than Depression in Men?

Before adolescence, depression is rare among the same age as girls and boys. However, with the start of puberty, a girl’s risk of developing depression increases twice that of boys.

Some studies reveal that increased chance of depression in women may be due to the changes in hormone levels that occur throughout a woman’s life. These changes include puberty, menopause, pregnancy, after giving birth or experiencing a miscarriage.

In addition, the hormone changes that occur with each month’s menstrual cycle apparently contribute to premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) and premenstrual syndrome (PMS), a severe syndrome characterized especially by depression, mood swings, and anxiety that occurs the week before menstruation and conflicts with the normal functioning of daily life.

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