Depression in Women: Symptoms, Causes, and Support
Robin D. Webb
Depression is defined as a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest in day-to-day activities. According to the Diagnostic Statistical Manual for Mental Health Disorders (DSM), Depression is also referred to as Major Depressive Disorder or Clinical Depression.
Depression can affect how you feel, think and behave, and can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems. Depression can also affect various areas of functioning to include school, work or home environments.
Understanding depression in women.
Every aspect of a woman’s life, including her physical health, social life, career, and sense of self-worth, can be affected by depression. Complicated factors can compound or intensify depressive symptoms such as reproductive hormones, social pressures, and other life demands.
These can lead women to experiencing a “sense of feeling overwhelmed,” which is a common response or particular way that women react to stress. Although depression affects women more often than it affects men, there are many ways to treat depression and improve your mood.
Depression symptoms in women’s bodies.
Identifying the warning signs, symptoms, and causes of depression, is pertinent in learning how to take the necessary steps needed for treatment of depression.
Depression can greatly impact your ability to function. Symptoms range from Mild to Severe (Major Depression) in women. Some notable depressive symptoms often include:
- Loss of interest or pleasure in your old hobbies or social activities that you used to enjoy.
- Changes in appetite frequently resulting in significant weight loss or gain.
- Difficulty in sleeping (falling and staying asleep) or oversleeping (sleeping too much).
- Feeling irritated, agitated, and restless
- Feeling drained of energy, sluggish, and fatigued
- Having trouble focusing or remembering things.
- Intensification of aches and pains, such as headaches, cramps or bloating.
- A sense of hopelessness and despair. You believe that nothing will ever change for the better and that there is nothing that you can do to make things better.
- Suicidal Ideation, Thoughts and Attempts.
It is also reported that women are more likely than men to experience additional depressive symptoms such as:
- Wintertime Depression, also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which is brought on by exposure to less sunlight. And,
- Feelings of worthlessness, guilt or low self-esteem, in which you are extremely critical of yourself for perceived flaws and errors.
Causes of depression in women.
It is reported, that compared to men, women reported having depression at much higher rates. There are numerous social, biological, and hormonal factors that may contribute to these disparities.
Infertility and pregnancy.
There are numerous hormonal changes that take place during pregnancy. Women who are at high risk for mental and physical challenges, can present with symptoms of depression. Depression may also be a contributing factor to other pregnancy-related challenges such as miscarriages, unintentional pregnancies, and infertility.
Postpartum Depression, also known as the “Baby Blues,” is a common occurrence for new mothers. This is a typical reaction that usually goes away after a few weeks. However, some new mothers go through an extended period of depression. Postpartum Depression is thought to be influenced, at least in part, by hormonal changes.
Perimenopause and menopause.
Perimenopause is the timeframe that occurs before menopause. It transpires when reproductive hormones rapidly fluctuates and is a main contributing factor to women becoming more susceptible to depression. Women that have experienced depression in the past, are more likely to experience it during Menopause.
The physiological reaction of women to stress.
A physiological reaction, that can possibly contribute to stress in women, is the female sex hormone referred to as Progesterone. Progesterone prevents the stress hormone system from turning off.
Women produce more stress hormones than men do and because of this issue, women may be more likely to experience Stress-related Depression. Depression in adolescents may be influenced by body image issues. Body image issues become more prevalent in girls as they go through the sexual maturation stage of puberty.Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland does not make enough thyroid hormone. This condition is also referred to as an Underactive Thyroid. It is reported that although hypothyroidism may not cause noticeable symptoms in its early stages, over time, hypothyroidism that is not properly treated, can lead to other medical or health conditions such as high cholesterol and heart problems. Hypothyroidism should always be ruled out by a Medical Professional because it can lead to depression.
Women may also experience Depression due to a long-term illness, trauma, or disability, as well as dieting or recently quitting smoking. Additionally, a lack of social support and loneliness are also common causes of depression.
Other common causes of depression include:
- Depression running in the family. (Genetic or hereditary)
- Childhood abuse or trauma
- Abuse of Alcohol or drugs
- Issues with marriage or relationships
- Juggling the demands of a career and a family.
- Family obligations like taking care of a disabled spouse, elderly parents or raising children.
- Experiencing discrimination at work or failing to meet important goals, quitting or changing jobs, retiring, or enlisting in the military.
- Persistent financial issues.
- Experiencing a stressful life event such as a grief and loss of a loved one, which in turn can make an individual feel hopeless, helpless, alone, or incredibly sad.
First-step for feeling better: seek out social support.
By taking a few quick, but effective self-help measures, you can significantly reduce your depression. Feeling better takes time and effort. But, if you choose to feel well and rely on the help of others, you can start to feel better.
Revisit your interests. You can motivate yourself to do things even when you do not feel like it. Pick up a past interest or favorite sport. Use writing, art, or music as a creative outlet. Go on outings with friends or family. Visit a museum, the mountains, or the Ballpark during the day.
Maintain Good Health
You need to engage in activities that are both energizing and relaxing if you want to lessen your depression. This entails maintaining a healthy lifestyle, gaining better stress management skills, establishing time limits, and fitting enjoyable activities into your daily schedule.
Sleep for eight hours if possible. Sleep issues are a common component of depression; whether you sleep too much or too little, your mood suffers. But establishing sound sleeping habits will help you establish a better sleep schedule.
Work to reduce stress levels. Stress not only worsens and prolongs depression, but it also has the ability to start it. Find ways to relieve stress and regain control by identifying all the things in your life that are stressing you out, such as a work overload, financial difficulties, or unhealthy relationships. Then take practical steps to reduce your stress possibly by sharing it with others.Develop Relaxation Skills. A regular relaxation routine can lessen stress, ease depression symptoms, and increase feelings of happiness and wellbeing. Consider practicing yoga, progressive muscle relaxation, deep breathing, or prayer and meditation.
Look after a pet. Pets can bring happiness and companionship into your life and make you feel less lonely; however, nothing can ever fully replace a human connection. Additionally, taking care of a pet can help you feel less isolated and more needed.
How to ask for help regarding depression in women.
Seek out assistance from those with whom you feel safe. You just need a good listener – someone who will pay close attention and compassionately hear you out without getting sidetracked or passing judgment – not someone who can fix you.
Face time should be prioritized. While texting, social media, and phone calls are all excellent ways to stay in touch, face-to-face time with loved ones cannot be replaced. Talking to someone face-to-face about how you are feeling can be a very effective way to both treat and prevent depression.
Even if you do not feel like it, try to stay involved in social activities. Being alone when you are depressed often feels more comfortable but being around other people will make you feel better.
Look for ways to assist others. While receiving support is nice, research demonstrates that giving support to others actually improves your mood more. Find ways to assist others by volunteering, lending a sympathetic ear to a friend, or performing acts of kindness.
Join a depression support group. Being around other people who are dealing with depression can significantly help to lessen your sense of loneliness. Additionally, you can support one another, share your experiences, and give and receive advice on how to cope.
Confront your negative thoughts.
Everything is viewed negatively during a depressive episode, including how you view yourself and your expectations for the future. When you experience overwhelming thoughts of this nature, it is critical to keep in mind that depression is the cause of these irrational, pessimistic attitudes, which are referred to as cognitive distortions and are not realistic.
When depressed, women also tend to ruminate, perhaps devoting hours to trying to understand why they are feeling this way. Rumination, however, can keep depression alive or even exacerbate it. You cannot simply tell yourself to “think positive” to get out of this pessimistic frame of mind. It frequently is a part of a lifelong negative thought pattern that has become so automatic that you are barely conscious of it.
Finding the specific negative thoughts that are causing your depression and learning to replace them with more balanced thoughts, will help you develop a more positive way of thinking.
Share your struggles with those you love and trust and ask for the assistance and support that you need from a qualified Christian counselor. Although your most important relationships may have been neglected, you can receive the help needed to get through this difficult time.
“Alone”, Courtesy of Jayson Hinrichsen, Unsplash.com, Unsplash+ License; “Sleepy”, Courtesy of Yuris Alhumaydy, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Tearful”, Courtesy of Kat J, Unsplash.com; CC0 License; “Anxious”, Courtesy of Priscilla Du Preez, Unsplash.com, CC0 License