Reviewed by Tanya Harrell, PhD, LPC, NCC
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) shows depression as a mental health condition that is most common in women. Usually, women are seen to experience depression in their early 30s or late 20s. The ADAA explains that generally, over 15 million people (about 7% of the population) in the U.S experience some kind of depression each year. Also, 70% of these people with depression are seen to be women. In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) expounds that about one out of ten women in the U.S reported symptoms that indicate that they experienced a major depressive episode in 2019. Through different studies, women are more likely to experience the symptoms of depression than men ("nearly twice the rate that men do"). Unfortunately, it's found that nearly two-thirds of women are unable to get needed help for their conditions.
Depression is a serious mental disorder characterized by feelings of sadness, emptiness, or hopelessness. It should be dealt with as soon as you discover that it's interfering with your day-to-day activities. You should see your doctor if your symptoms persist for at least two weeks or take an online depression test if you experience depressive symptoms for potential clarity.
What Are The Symptoms Of Depression In Women?
It should be understood that depression isn't a temporary mental health condition. In fact, it can be chronic with symptoms such as the feeling sad or down persist for a very long time. There are depressive symptoms more peculiar to women. Some of the common ones include:
- Persistent feelings of sadness, anxiety, or emptiness
- Irritability, restlessness, or crying too much
- Sleeping problems
- Difficulty remembering, making decisions, or concentrating
- Fatigue decreased energy, or feeling "slowed down."
- Loss of interest or pleasure in activities you once enjoyed
- Feelings of helplessness, guilt, hopelessness, or worthlessness
- Changes in appetite and/or weight (loss or gain)
- Gastrointestinal problems, headaches, and chronic pain
What Are The Forms Of Depression In Women?
Depression is seen to affect women more than men. This is because different contributing factors are related only to the female folks, such as reproductive hormones, unique social pressure experienced by women in their lives, and how females respond differently to stress. The following are the different forms of depression most common in women:
- Major Depression: Major depression or major depressive disorder is a common but severe kind of depression characterized by loss of interest in activities that women once enjoyed (including sex) and low self-esteem. It can interfere with your life's important aspects, such as your sleep, eating healthily, performing tasks efficiently, or relationships. Major depression can persist for a very long time if not treated.
- Persistent Depressive Disorder: Depression can be mild, moderate, or severe. A persistent depressive disorder is seen to be a milder kind of depression characterized by a low mood that lasts for two or more years. It's important to know that both major depressive disorder and persistent depressive disorder can occur together.
- Postpartum Depression: Postpartum depression or "baby blues" occurs after a woman gives birth to a baby. Some women may experience some typical depressive symptoms months after giving birth, while others may still carry the baby.
In addition, there is a term used to refer to a form of depression experienced during pregnancy and after giving birth (Perinatal depression). If it's after, you can refer it to as postpartum depression, as explained above. It's shown through research that women experience hormonal changes during pregnancy and after birth. These changes can cause mood swings or result in the development of some symptoms of depression and anxiety, including suicidal thoughts, sleeping problems, or feeling incapacitated to cater to your needs or that of your baby. Other things that may be contributing to depression may include miscarriage, relationship issues, or feeling unsupported by family or friends.
- Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) And Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD): Premenstrual syndrome, as the name suggests, occurs before the menstrual period. Technically, it involves changes in hormones that can affect the chemicals (such as serotonin) in the brain that decide your mood levels. Some of PMS's common and temporary symptoms include headaches, feeling like both breasts are painful or sensitive to the touch, and feeling bloated.
Premenstrual syndrome can be classified as Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) when its symptoms such as anxiety and irritability become severe. PMDD is seen as a form of depression characterized by negative thoughts, severe mood swings, and anxiety that appears in the week before you start menstruation and disappear once it begins. This form of depression can interfere with tour relationships and day-to-day activities.
- Perimenopausal Depression: Perimenopausal depression is a form of depression that occurs when women enter the menopause stage. Here, major hormonal changes take place, which may also involve experiencing symptoms of depression. Some of the things that may contribute to Perimenopausal depression include negativity and past trauma in your life, relationship issues, a history of postpartum depression, and stress at home or work.
What Are The Risk Factors Of Depression In Women?
Different factors can be responsible for depression in women. These factors are genetic, psychological, hormonal, and social.
- Genetic And Hormonal Factors: Several individuals are highly predisposed to depression because depression runs in their families. However, getting depressed may be reduced if you keep social relationships and have a healthy family.
Other risk factors associated with females' hormones and biology that may result in depression may include menstrual cycles, menopause, perimenopause, pregnancy issues, and fertility.
- Psychological Factors: Women are observed to be more emotional than men. This can make them more susceptible to be affected by depression. Women may tend to ruminate about depression and can make depressive symptoms last longer. Men often resort to doing activities that can keep their minds and thoughts occupied. In addition, women and their bodies are heavily scrutinized by media, which adds to the pressure to look a certain way to be perceived as attractive.
- Social Factors: There are social occurrences that may influence the feelings, thoughts, and actions of women. For instance, women can get depressed if they experience marital or relationship problems, financial challenges, work-life balance issues, loss of a loved one, or stressful life events.
Other risk factors of depression in women may include sexual or physical abuse during childhood, loss of a parent before 10 years old, history of mood disorders, separation or divorce, job loss, and use of certain medications.
How Can Women Cope With Depression?
Depression can be treated, whether it's affecting men or women. However, based on the fact that women are mostly affected by depression or different factors that may contribute to their mood disorders, they must take urgent medical steps when they begin to notice the symptoms of depression. The following are some of the things you can do to cope with your condition:
- Medications: Medication is one of the common treatment options available for women battling with depression. Ensure you get your doctor informed before taking any medication, especially when you're carrying a baby. This is because some medications (antidepressants) that can have side effects that may affect the baby. If your doctor discovers that you are being affected by depression, you may be referred to a psychiatrist for proper diagnosis and prescription medications.
Psychotherapy: Depression is a serious mental health condition that may require the help of a therapist. Your therapist may recommend cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT helps you learn new patterns of positive thinking and coping strategies when depressed. CBT can help women comprehend difficult relationships and how to cope with them. It can so help influence your habits that might be contributing to your depressed state. Other forms of depression may include group therapy, one-on-one therapy, or family therapy.
- Exercise Regularly And Eat A Healthy Diet: Generally, exercise is an effective coping skill that can help boost your mood. It can make your symptoms less severe, reduce stress levels, and help you feel relaxed and calm. Some forms of exercise, such as yoga or meditation, can help relieve some depressive symptoms.
Furthermore, you can change some of your lifestyles by eating a healthy diet (such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains), getting enough sleep (at least 7-8 hours daily), and getting exposed to sunlight (30minutes daily).
- Surround Yourself With People Who Can Make You Happy: Different things can easily affect women's feelings and emotions. Sometimes, people close, such as family members, friends, or coworkers, can stand as triggers of depression. In this situation, you are expected to stay away from them and keep positive people who can make you feel good about yourself.
- Join A Support Group: If it's difficult to express how you feel to those around you, there are support groups you can join where you will meet people experiencing similar condition as yours. You can talk with your therapist to know the one that best fits your condition.