October 17, 2017

Depression in Women – The 12 Facts Every Woman Should Know

In any given year, close to 19 million Americans over the age of 18 will experience some type of clinical depression. Data from the National Institute of Mental Health indicate that women are 70 percent more likely than men to suffer from depression during their lifetime.  In fact, NIMH estimates that one in eight women will experience depression; most likely during their peak years between 25 and 44 years old.

Depression is an insidious disorder that may be difficult to diagnose in the early stages.  When the feelings of extreme despondency, helplessness and hopelessness persist longer than two weeks accompanied by other behavioral changes, it might be time to seek help from a health care professional.

1. Depression is more prevalent in women than in men, but no one is immune to the disorder.

Depression knows no boundaries. It can afflict men and women alike. It affects the very young, the elderly and those in between. Anecdotal evidence suggests that a disproportionate number of females suffer from depression. No one can really explain the disparity except for the fact that men are less likely to talk about their emotional challenges while women are more forthright, having hormones and reproductive changes to blame it on.

2. Women are affected by depression in different ways than men.

Depressed women often blame themselves for their situation while men tend to blame others.  Women will exhibit sadness and apathy while men will be prone to anger and ill-temper.  Women will be fearful and tend to go into conflict-avoidance mode while men will tend towards paranoia and conflict creation.

Understandably, women are more comfortable than men when it comes to discussing emotions.  Men consider this a character flaw that marks one as a weakling.  Faced with symptoms of depression, women will turn to friends, food love for comfort while men will consider television, sports and alcohol to cope with their symptoms.

3. The symptoms of depression in women can easily be misconstrued as symptomatic of different conditions.

– Constant moodiness and irritability often matched with unexplained crying jags
– Persistent guilt feelings, restlessness and emptiness
– Loss of interest in hobbies and commitments
– Inexplicable feelings of helplessness, hopelessness and worthlessness
– Oversleeping or inability to sleep
– Thoughts of suicide and death
– Physical manifestations such as chronic complaints that are unrelieved by treatment
– Loss of interest in healthy grooming
– Unintended weight gain or loss of at least five percent over a month

4. Older women experience depression differently from younger women.

Depression among the elderly is fairly common. It is estimated that over six million seniors in the 65 and older age group suffer from depression but only 10 percent will pursue treatment. The symptoms of depression are often attributed to other prevailing health issues and to medication side effects.

Stress and social isolation will exacerbate depressive symptoms in elderly women. In addition, chronic ailments such as hypertension and heart disease can increase the risks of depression. A cooperative study undertaken by researchers at Duke and Wake Forest Universities found a link between depression in the elderly and brain lesions, possibly from previous strokes.

Depression lasts longer in the elderly. At the same time, the condition can intensify existing ailments like diabetes and dementia.  This disorder will affect the patient’s ability and motivation to recuperate from such illnesses.

5. Different people in different circumstances experience different types of depression.

– Major depressive disorder also known as clinical depression is a debilitating mood disorder characterized by lingering feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness that affect the person’s ability to function normally.

– Postpartum depression is a serious medical condition that affects women around the time they need to care for a newborn. Critical clues include inability to bond and care for their newborn as well as thoughts of harming the baby.

– Premenstrual dysphoric disorder can be attributed to hormonal changes, specifically estrogen. While most women are able to cope with premenstrual syndrome, others exhibit symptoms that will require professional help.

– Depression in puberty is associated with hormonal adjustments normal for this life stage. Girls more than boys will be affected by adolescent depression.

– Prenatal depression may occur in pregnant women. Pregnancy is a stressful period as it is, but dramatic shifts in hormone levels and the need to change or stop medications can make the period even more stressful.

– Disthymia is a type of depressive disorder where moods are consistently low but not as severe as major depression. The symptoms tend to last longer in disthymia.

– Manic depression or bipolar affective disorder is characterized by extreme mood swings, distorted perception and impaired social skills. Bipolar disorders can be traced to genetic factors.

– Vascular depression is late onset depression experienced by the elderly. The condition can be traced to brain lesions.

– Seasonal affective disorder is attributed to the lower light conditions during the winter months.

Depressed Woman6. Some women are more prone to depression than others.

The National Institutes of Health report that risk factors include:

– A history of depression in the family
– Loss of a parent or parent-figure before the age of 10
– Loss of a social support system
– Physical, sexual and emotional abuse experienced as a young child
– Ongoing stressful challenges such as divorce, unemployment and other relationship problems
– Medication or lack of proper medical care to address all health issues

7.   Sleep apnea can cause depression in women.

People afflicted with depression are five times more likely than others to suffer from sleep apnea, a sleep related breathing disorder. Obstructive sleep apnea increases the risk for depression. There is also some evidence that depression is aggravated by breathing disorders that interrupt restful sleep.

8.  Women are at greater risk for depression than men because of certain gender-specific dynamics.

– Hormonal changes affect women at different stages of their life. Hormonal shifts can be cyclical in nature or dependent on life situation.

– Traditional gender roles put the burden of child-rearing on women, a leading stress factor and risk for depression

– Women undergo life stages that men never experience. Menstrual cycles, pregnancy, perimenopause and menopause are among these biological conditions.

– Women more than men are apt to experience guilt and contemplate suicide.

– Women tend to internalize stress-inducing situations with a greater degree of anxiety. Women are more likely to have eating disorders and phobic reactions.

9.  Depression in women can be diagnosed.

Diagnosing depression can be difficult because it requires self-reporting of symptoms to a medical professional. This is not always possible for all depressed patients. Doctors will require a complete physical examination, lab tests, interviews to establish medical history, biological and genetic risk factors and potentially diagnostic evaluation by a specialist. Sometimes, doctors will use a process of elimination to differentiate symptoms of depression.

The diagnosis of depression becomes definitive if at least five of the symptoms listed above exist.

depression treatment10.  Help is available for women facing depression.

A woman’s primary care physician is usually the go-to resource for depressed patients. The physician can oversee the treatment plan and provide referrals to specialists and therapists as needed. Treatment of antidepressant medication and/or talk therapy is usually recommended but the doctor will gather information from the patient so that the treatments and their management best suit the individual patient’s personal needs and circumstances.

Women can also look to their social support network community consisting of family, friends, religious advisers and professional connections for support. In addition, there are many depression support groups locally and online.

11.  Left untreated, depression can cause serious health issues.

Depression is overwhelming but it is treatable. Without the necessary intervention, depression can lead to or intensify other health conditions including:

 

  • cardiovascular diseases especially congestive heart failure
  • dementia
  • hypertension
  • diabetes

12.  Women with major depression are at greater risk of suicide.

Up to 15 percent of those with clinical depression die by committing suicide. Women are twice more likely than men to attempt suicide although the completion rate is higher for men.

Without a doubt, depression is a life-threatening disorder. As such, persons who recognize the symptoms in themselves or in their loved ones should address the situation by seeking help from a qualified professional. Additionally, traditional support networks among family and friends can be helpful in ensuring that a depressed person receives the help they need.

Depression is fairly common with today’s demanding and competitive lifestyles but it is not the norm nor should it ever be. With proper diagnosis and treatment, it is possible for depressed persons to regain their health and find fulfillment in their life.

 

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