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Depression in Women

                                   Depression in Women

As women, we have many life roles. Mother, wife, employee, friend, healer, caregiver, and the list goes on. The complexity of all of these roles can cause ups and downs throughout life. Some of these mood changes may be due to life events (e.g., getting in an argument with a friend) or may be due to hormones (e.g., pregnancy, menstrual cycle). In general, after a few days, your emotions tend to level out and you don’t feel down in the dumps anymore.


What Causes Depression in Women?



There is a multitude of genetic, hormonal, psychological, and social factors that come into play when citing the cause of depression in women.


Depression in Women
Depression in Women



Biology and Hormones



Biologically speaking, depression runs in families – with scientific evidence that some genetic makeups are more prone to depression, whereas some genetic makeups are more resistant to it. Though, environmental factors are thought to interact with genetic predispositions. That is, just because you may be more prone to depression because of your genes, healthy family and social relationships can increase resilience. Other biological and hormonal factors are also likely to increase your chances of suffering from depression. Issues with pregnancy, fertility, perimenopause, menopause, and menstrual cycles increase women’s risk factors for developing depression. Most of these are due to hormonal imbalances and rapid fluctuations in reproductive hormones. Health problems, in general, especially those of chronic illness or disability can prompt depression in women, as can medical life changes – such as frequent dieting and smoking cessation.


Psychological Causes



Women are more prone to psychological causes of depression than men. With a tendency to be more emotional, women are more likely to rehash negative thoughts during bouts of depression. While it is a normal response to cry, talk with friends, and rehash why it is you are in your depressive state, research has shown that ruminating about depression can cause it to last longer and even make it worse. In contrast, men tend to distract themselves from their depressive state – which has been shown to reduce the duration of symptoms. Additional psychological factors that tend to affect women over men are negative body images and stress-induced depression. Women are more prone to stress than men because their increased levels of progesterone have been shown to prevent stress hormones from leveling out. Negative body image issues usually begin in adolescence and seem to be correlated with the onset of puberty in women.


Social Causes




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


  • Death of a parent before age 10
  • Job loss, relationship problems, divorce
  • Physical or sexual abuse during childhood
  • History of mood disorders
  • Use of certain medications

Signs and Symptoms


Signs and symptoms of depression vary from woman to woman. Some of the most common signs and symptoms are listed below:



  • Feelings of emptiness, hopelessness, despair, and sadness
  • Irritability, anxiousness, and guilt
  • Feelings of exhaustion, severe tiredness
  • Loss of interest in previously pleasurable activities
  • Inability to concentrate or remember details
  • Suicidal thoughts or attempts of suicide
  • Sleep disturbances; sleeping too much or too little, insomnia
  • Changes in appetite – eating too much or too little
  • Physical symptoms – aches and pains, cramps, headaches, digestive issues, breast tenderness, bloating
  • Lack of energy
  • Feeling out of control
  • Mood swings and feelings of tearfulness
  • Panic attacks
  • Feelings of tension
  • Disinterest in daily activities and relationships


Treatment Options:

If you are a woman and suffering from depression, it is best to seek treatment right away to improve your quality of life. Your first course of action should be a visit to your doctor or mental health professional. Your doctor will ask you a series of questions and perform tests to rule out an underlying medical condition causing your depression or determine if certain medications might be to blame for your depressed mental state. Your primary care doctor will also ask you a number of questions about your symptoms – how long they have lasted when they started, the severity of your symptoms, how persistent they are (re-occurrence rate), and your family history of depression. If your doctor suspects you may be suffering from depression, he or she will refer you to a mental health specialist who can formally diagnose your condition and make recommendations for treatment.

The most common treatment options for women suffering from depression include medications and therapy. It is imperative you tell your doctor if you are pregnant or may become pregnant during treatment as certain medications to treat depression may affect your growing baby. If you do begin taking antidepressants for your depressed mood state, it is important that you monitor your symptoms and note any side effects. Certain side effects of antidepressants can worsen depression in a small percentage of individuals. Specifically, increased risk of suicidal thoughts, suicidal attempts, and irritability have found to be associated with the use of antidepressants in some individuals. Other more common side effects include:

Depression in Women
Depression in Women

  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Agitation
  • Though, these problems usually decrease over time.

Therapy has also been shown to be a very effective method of treatment if you are suffering from depression. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the most common forms of talk therapy, or psychotherapy, in the treatment of depression. This method of therapy focuses on teaching new ways of thinking and coping mechanisms when feelings of depression hit. In addition, therapy is helpful in helping women understand difficult relationships and how to improve them, and how to change habits that might be contributing to their depression. In addition to one-on-one therapy, group therapy or family therapy is a helpful method to treat depression if family stress is a contributing factor to your depressed state.

Unfortunately, depression in women can have misdiagnosis rates as high as 50% and fewer than half of women who experience major depression will ever seek treatment. Fortunately, depression has shown great treatment success rates. More than 80% of women with depression are treated successfully through antidepressants, therapy, or a combination of both.

In addition to medications and therapy, the self-help techniques below can help improve your mood if you are suffering from depression:

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