Depression in Women

Did you know that nearly twice as many women as men develop depression-related disorders at some point in their lives? So why the gender difference? Firstly, women have unique combination of biological, psychosocial and cultural factors that may increase risk of depression, and secondly, are more likely to be diagnosed.

Biological Factors in Depression

The female hormones may alter mood through various stages of life. Drastic fluctuations in hormones can have a profound effect on a woman's life. This may occur during any time when hormones fluctuate, in particular

Premenstrual - before menstruation, cyclical changes in estrogen, progesterone and other hormones can disrupt the function of brain chemicals, such as serotonin, that control mood. This can be severe for some women with depression and hopelessness leading to disruption in their lives, jobs and relationships. This condition is known as premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), and it may require treatment with hormones or antidepressants. Genetic factors may influence this propensity to pre-menstrual depression.

Pregnancy - dramatic hormonal changes together with changes in life, work and relationship affect mood and in some cases may trigger depression. Other issues surrounding pregnancy, such as infertility, miscarriage or an unwanted pregnancy can also trigger depression.

Postpartum depression - about 50% of women experience feelings of sadness, anger, irritability and tearfulness soon after giving birth. These feelings commonly known as the baby blues — are normal and generally subside within a week or two.

Perimenopause and menopause - the risk of depression may increase again during the transition to menopause (perimenopause), when hormone levels fluctuate erratically, as well as after menopause, when estrogen levels are significantly reduced. This can lead to sleep disruption and depression..


Social and Cultural Factors in Depression

Women are more likely than men to shoulder the burden of both work and family responsibilities. They are also influenced by:

  • Unequal power and status – can lead to feelings of injustice, lack of control, lack of self value.
  • Work overload – women generally have to juggle working, caring for children, caring for sick and older family members and maintaining a healthy marriage. In many cases this emotional overload can trigger depression.
  • Sexual and physical abuse - women who have been sexually molested or otherwise abused as either children or adults are more likely to experience depression at some point in their lives.


Getting Treatment for Depression

Regardless of the cause of depression, women often have different symptoms than men. They are more likely to experience guilt, anxiety, lack of self worth, fatigue, sleep disturbances, weight gain and carbohydrate craving. Believing that your condition is hopeless or incurable is a classic symptom of depression. You might be more likely than a man to develop depression, but don't assume you must simply learn to live with it. The right treatment can help you enjoy life again.

Depression in the Elderly


Other Sources of Help

Postpartum Depression

Depression After Delivery, Inc. (DAD)

Postpartum Support International


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