Depression: It may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of health conditions that affect women or men, but, in fact,
it is one of the leading reasons women seek out medical help. While it's not known for sure, higher rates of depression in women than men
may be linked to biological and social differences.
True depression is more than just the occasional "blues" that most people encounter now and then. Clinical depression affects the whole person
-- mind, body, personal life, work life.
It is not known precisely why or how depression develops, but most researchers think it's due to an alteration in brain chemicals known
When Hormones Affect Mood
In addition to clinical depression, women also can have significant mood swings in relation to hormonal fluctuations. Between three and five percent
of women experience menstrual-related depression and anxiety so severe that it is classified as premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) -- a severely
debilitating disorder that requires treatment.
Women also may develop depression after giving birth (postpartum depression), or after experiencing infertility, miscarriage, and surgical menopause.
Some Risk Factors for Depression in Women
The more children a woman has the greater her chance of depression. Women who have been victims of rape or domestic violence are at increased
risk of major depressive illness and should seek counseling as soon as possible. Other risk factors:
- Oral contraceptives -- particularly those with high progesterone content.
- History of physical/sexual abuse in childhood.
- Infertility treatments involving the use of gonadotropin stimulants.
- Loss or threat of loss of social support system.
- Death of a parent before the age of 10.
- Family history of mood disorders.
- Personal history of mood disorders, particularly during the early reproductive years.
- Some Symptoms of Depression?
- Depressed or irritable mood.
- Reduction of interest or pleasure in activities.
- Loss of interest in sex.
- Feelings of guilt, hopelessness, and worthlessness.
- Recurrent suicidal thoughts.
- Not being able to sleep or sleeping too much (insomnia or hypersomia).
- Changes in appetite including weight loss or weight gain.
- Difficulty concentrating or maintaining attention.
- Lack of energy or constant fatigue.
- Other psychomotor disturbances.
Risk of Suicide
Women are more likely than men to attempt suicide as a result of depression, however men are more successful in their suicidal attempts than women.
Seventy percent of suicide attempts by women are by overdose or similar methods, while men more often choose a more violent method, such as a
self-inflicted gunshot wound.
All suicide threats should be taken seriously -- contact a mental health worker or medical professional immediately if someone you know makes such a threat.
Treatments for Depression?
The good news is that depression is treatable. However, only one-third of depressed people ever seek treatment, leaving millions of Americans with untreated
Treatment should involve a medical assessment for factors that may be contributing to a woman's mood, such as birth control, hormone replacement therapy
and thyroid disease.
Treatments include talk therapy, medications such as antidepressant medications, and in severe cases electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). Some of the
most popular antidepressants include Prozac, Celexa, and Paxil.
Women may metabolize antidepressants differently than men. There may need to be adjustments to avoid or manage side effects.
The length of treatment varies among patients. As a general rule, if this is the first time you are being treated for depression, you may need to take
the antidepressant for 6 months to a year. If you have recurrences of depression, you will likely have to be maintained on medication for more
There are some alternative treatments for depression, but discuss all alternative or "natural" treatments with your doctor, as they can interact with
other medications and carry their own medical risks.
If you or someone you know feels depressed for more than two weeks, seek help from your physician or a mental health professional.
Major Depression In Adults Primary Care. National Guideline Clearinghouse.