Women and Depression
Depression. Most people will suffer from it at one time or another, to a greater or lesser degree. However, studies have shown that nearly twice as many women as men suffer from chronic depression and will need assistance in coping with it. According to the Mayo Clinic, one in five women will suffer from depression, and it is most common between the ages of 40 to 59. Nevertheless, depression can occur at any age, and for women, it is important to know the signs and symptoms at each stage in life.
Hormonal changes often trigger a depressive episode. However, lifestyle, inherited traits, and individual biochemistry also can determine if you might be susceptible.
Puberty marks the beginning of the chasm between men and women when it comes to depression, and it lasts until after menopause. Girls usually mature earlier than boys and so are more likely to develop depression at a younger age. Mood swings are typical during this time, mostly just temporary and quite normal. But hormonal changes that take place during puberty can often indicate a risk factor in developing depression.
The Mayo Clinic goes on to say, “Puberty is often associated with other factors that can play a role in depression such as emerging sexuality and identity issues; conflicts with parents; and increasing pressure to achieve in school, sports or other areas of life.”
Premenstrual Syndrome or PMS is often associated with irritability, mood swings, sadness, and bloating, where symptoms are typically short-lived. However, some young girls and women “…have severe and disabling symptoms”, that can be disruptive to their lives, interfering with jobs, studies and relationships. “At this point PMS may cross the line into premenstrual dysphoric disorder – PMDD,” and usually requires treatment, including medication. It is still not known what the relationship is between PMS and depression. But hormonal changes can disrupt the release of certain brain chemicals, like serotonin, that affect mood.
The hormonal changes that take place during pregnancy are quite dramatic and can trigger a depressive episode, along with other critical life issues and changes. A history of prior episodes of postpartum depression, depression, or PMDD could put a woman at risk of developing depression during pregnancy.
Many women experience mood swings , tears, and irritability after giving birth. This is often called “baby blues”, and is normal and temporary. “But more serious and long lasting depressed feelings may indicate postpartum depression, particularly if signs and symptoms include:
- Low self-esteem
- Inability to care for your baby/ thoughts of harming your baby
- Thoughts of suicide
Postpartum depression is a very serious condition and should be treated immediately. Between 10 and 25 percent of women will develop postpartum depression, which is a high statistic. It can be exacerbated by a predisposition to mood disorders, hormonal fluctuations, and lack of a support system.
Depression is something to be taken quite seriously. You can develop it at any age, and, even though anyone can be vulnerable, women tend to be more so than men for a variety of physical and emotional reasons. It is important to seek treatment right away if you experience any of the symptoms mentioned or find yourself in one of the “at risk” populations.