Understanding depression in women

Life has its challenges, but living with depression can make life unbearable. Many women suffer from…
Understanding depression in women
Foto: Flickr / Lawrence Murray

Life has its challenges, but living with depression can make life unbearable. Many women suffer from this illness. In fact, each year more women are likely to be diagnosed than men. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, many never get treatment. Why do women tend to become depressed? What are the common signs of this disorder? How can someone who is suffering get help?

Is it genetics or stress?

What causes a woman to suffer from a depressive disorder? Is it family health history or are more factors involved? Research shows that genetics do play a role in increasing the likeliness of a woman having to deal with depression, but many women who face this illness do not have a family history. Shifts in hormones, which happen regularly throughout a woman’s life, are known to affect brain chemistry and the experience of moods and emotions. Hormone shifts occur every month because of the menstrual cycle. Major and sometimes dramatic changes occur after giving birth and during the menopausal years. These natural hormonal changes can cause premenstrual dysphoric disorder, postpartum depression, and an increased risk of feeling depressed during menopause.

Genetics can raise the risk and hormone changes can lead to temporary mood changes or serious manifestations of depressive disorder, but stress, and how we as women cope with stress, can trigger depression as well. Things such as heavy family and work responsibilities, financial difficulties, and a troubling relationship can all lead to enormous stress. This opens up the door to this disorder.

Recognizing the signs

How do you know if you or someone you know may be depressed and in need of emotional support and medical care? Common signs of depression in women include low energy, anxiety, insomnia, and appetite changes. Persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or restlessness are also signs. Someone who is depressed may have trouble concentrating and may have lost an interest in all the fun and pleasurable things in life. Physical symptoms like headaches and digestive problems are also possible.

Getting help

If you or someone you know is suffering from this disorder, get help! This is a common illness, and it can be treated with medication, therapy, and lifestyle changes. Make an appointment with a psychologist or counselor or visit a local clinic or support group. Understanding the potential causes of depression can put this illness into perspective. Try to reduce some of the stress in your life. Activities like meditation, yoga, a long walk, or a hot bath can reduce stress and make it easier to cope with life’s challenges and difficult feelings. Meet with a trusted friend for a cup of coffee and a conversation or talk with a therapist, counselor, or someone from your church. Communicating your feelings can be immensely therapeutic. Start setting small goals for yourself. Let your confidence and trust in life build with the small things — enjoying a song, appreciating the smile of a stranger. One thing to never do is to believe that you are alone or that there is not help out there.