Depression and Women
Depression is very common among women. In fact as many as one in four women are likely to develop chronic depression at least once in their lives. Women are more than twice as likely as men are to become depressed. The majority of the nearly 15 million people who become chronically depressed every year are women, and about 2/3 of them do not seek help for their depression.
Depression affects everybody differently, and the symptoms can range from mild to severe. It causes the sufferer to have feelings of helplessness and despair, sadness, and worthlessness. Many women report that while they are depressed they are much more likely to lose their appetite, have difficulty staying asleep, develop low self-esteem, become apathetic, and develop low-grade fatigue. In the most severe cases they can even become suicidal. It is most alarming that women are much more likely to attempt to kill themselves then men are who are also suffering from chronic depression.
The reason why women are much more likely to become depressed is varied. During adolescence the depression rates are about equal for boys and for girls, however around puberty we start to see a different a significant disparity in the depression rates. At puberty the rates of depression become about two to one, girl versus boy. Many experts believe that this is directly due to the hormone changes that girls start to experience. This cycle continues throughout the lifetime of a female as hormone levels continue to fluctuate through many life events: pregnancy, immediately following giving birth, menopause, and even the monthly menstrual cycles. In regards to this later there is even a disorder called, premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), which typically the sufferer experiences depression and mood swings the week before menstruation to the extent that it interferes with a woman’s ability to function properly in her daily life.
The National Institutes of Health lists several genetic, reproductive, and other biological factors that increase a woman’s risk of becoming depressed. These can include a family history of emotional disorders, a history of emotional disorders during the earlier reproductive years, losing a parent before the age of 10, the lack of a social support system, sexual or physical abuse as a child, ongoing psychological or social stress, and even taking certain medicines. Some women who give birth develop postpartum depression, and some women suffer from seasonal affective disorder. There are also many stress factors that women experience simply by living life that increase the likelihood of developing depression, such as losing a job, arguing with a spouse, and the stress of raising children.
Women who are experiencing signs of depression can and should seek immediate help. Depression is a medical disorder and is not something to be embarrassed by or ashamed of, and it can be treated. Women should seek the help of a mental health professional, who will determine the best form of treatment. Recognizing and acknowledging the fact that women are much more likely to suffer from depression is a very important first step to combating this disease