Depression in Women

Women are approximately two times more likely than men to suffer from major depression and dysthymia. Depression seems to be related to a chemical imbalance in the brain that makes it hard for the cells to communicate with one another.

Women with premenstrual syndrome are more likely to become depressed. Married women are more likely to suffer from depression than married men, and mothers even more likely. In fact, the more children a woman has the greater her chance of depression.

Depression is more common a week before a woman’s period and in the weeks after a woman gives birth. Depression is a mood disorder characterized by one or more major depressive episodes accompanied by at least four additional symptoms such as changes in sleep, appetite, or weight, and psychomotor activity; decreased energy; feelings of worthlessness. Women who have been victims of rape or domestic violence are at increased risk of major depressive illness and should seek counseling at the time the incident occurs.

The risk of depression may also be heightened during the transition to menopause, a stage called perimenopause, when hormone levels fluctuate erratically. Women’s relative lack of power and status in our society may lead to feelings of helplessness.
This sense of helplessness puts women at greater risk for depression.

The risk may also be heightened in early menopause or after menopause, both times when estrogen levels are significantly reduced. Men and women from families with depression are both at greater risk than those who come from families with no depression. Antidepressant medicines are very effective in treating depression. Medicine alone or medicine with counseling can help most women who have depression.

What factors place a woman at higher risk for Depression?

  • Family history of mood disorders.
  • Ongoing psychological and social stress.
  • Physical or sexual abuse as a child.
  • Stress.
  • Infertility treatments involving the use of gonadotropin stimulants.
  • In some women, taking birth control pills may cause symptoms of depression.

What are the symptoms of depression in women?

  • Loss of interest in sex.
  • Recurrent suicidal thoughts.
  • Depressed mood.
  • Lack of energy or constant fatigue.
  • Having trouble paying attention and making decisions.
  • Changes in appetite.

How is depression treated?

  • Psychotherapy is an effective treatment for depression.
  • Bright light therapy has been used successfully for seasonal affective disorder, but there is as yet no evidence that it is useful for other forms of depression.
  • Other treatments such as acupuncture and nutritional supplements may be helpful in specific circumstances.
  • Medicine alone or medicine with counseling can help most women who have depression.