Women can experience hormonal fluctuations from the moment they start menstruating all the way up to menopause which can contribute to symptoms of depression.
The feelings of stress, disappointment, ineffectiveness, social pressure, frustration, or simply being overwhelmed can be exacerbated by hormonal fluctuations and result in a depressive episode. Continue reading to learn more about what causes depression in women.
What is depression?
Depressive disorders are a group of mental health disorders that impact nearly 18 million Americans every year. About one in eight women will experience a depressive episode during their lifetime.
Signs and symptoms of depression may include:
- Persistent low mood
- Feelings of hopelessness, sadness, and despair
- Difficulty concentrating
- Disrupted sleeping patterns like excessive sleeping (hypersomnia) or insomnia
- Fatigue, lethargy, and exhaustion
- Loss of interest in hobbies and activities of interest
- Changes in eating habits like sudden weight gain or loss
- Mood swings
- Irrational feelings of guilt or shame
- Unexplained physical symptoms like headaches, body aches, and digestive problems
- Feeling out of control
- Suicidal thoughts
5 reasons for increased rates of depression in women
Statistics by The Journal of Psychiatry & Neuroscience showed a greater prevalence of depression among women versus men, with young women under the age of 25 being twice as likely to develop depression than their male counterparts.
Some of the causes of depression in women include:
- Hormonal differences: Women may experience more intense mood swings as a result of several hormonal differences. Depressive disorders such as postpartum depression, premenstrual dysphoric disorder, and postmenopausal depression are all associated with hormonal activity.
- Heightened sensitivity to interpersonal conflict: Women place a great deal of importance on their relationships, so when there is active conflict, they are more apt to suffer emotionally.
- Societal. Women bear a higher degree of responsibility for child-rearing, which can translate to greater socioeconomic challenges. Some women might fall into depression when struggling with these societal issues, especially if they lack a social support system.
- Genetics: A family history of depression increases the chances that someone will develop this mental health disorder. A study of 1,033 sets of twins found that the propensity toward developing depression was due to shared genetics rather than shared environmental factors.
- Brain chemistry: The onset of depression may be due to an imbalance in brain chemistry, with the exact role of neurotransmitters norepinephrine, serotonin and dopamine is not yet fully understood.
Treatment for depression
A specialized treatment program that addresses the specifics of depression in women will be more effective in overall outcomes. Treatment for depression typically involves three components: medication, psychotherapy and holistic therapies.
- Medication: Antidepressants are effective in alleviating depression symptoms in 50%-70% of patients. However this often involves trialing a few medications to find the best fit.
- Psychotherapy: Therapy sessions involve exploring the factors that may be contributing to depression. Examples might include past traumatic events like the recent loss of a loved one, a divorce, or any other emotional experiences. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is highly effective in depression treatment. CBT helps them address dysfunctional thought patterns that may keep them stuck in unhealthy coping responses.
- Holistic therapies: Holistic therapies can complement traditional psychotherapy since they address the spiritual aspects of healing. Examples include art and music therapy, journaling, yoga, and mindfulness meditation.
The despair and hopelessness that accompany depression are often paralyzing, interfering with a woman’s ability to perform the basic tasks of her day. Recognizing the symptoms and getting effective treatment are the first steps to reclaiming a healthy state of mind.
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