How Depression Affects Women

The roles of being a woman entail a lot and having lots of responsibilities usually take a toll on us Mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Having life-changing experiences such as being a mother, a nurturer, a caregiver and all affect our emotions daily.

Experiencing a negative event can bring about mood changes with some being caused by hormonal changes like pregnancy and menstruation.

After a few days, the moods begin to balance out and one doesn’t experience a roller coaster of emotions anymore. But if you are suffering from depression, the roller coaster of emotions goes on for weeks and begin to affect your relationships and daily life.

Women are about twice as likely to develop major depression -having higher rates of seasonal affective disorder, depressive symptoms in bipolar disorder than men. Factors that contribute to this are reproductive hormones, social pressures that come with being a woman, and stress.

Even though both genders experience depression, it has not been proven why women are more likely to suffer from depression more than men, Some have reasoned that men are less likely to talk about feelings and seek help for mood disorders and that depression shows up differently in men.

What Causes Depression in Women?

There are many contributing factors that contribute to the occurrence of depression in both women and men. These include hormones, genetics, psychological and social factors. But researchers have had little success in identifying why women are more susceptible to depression.

Genes – According to Harvard Health, studies have shown that identical twins who share the same genes- imply that genetics accounts for about 40% of the risk for major depression. Positive that certain genetic mutations associated with the development of severe depression occur only in women.

Hormones – To be biologically correct, depression runs in families with scientific evidence that some genetic makeups are more susceptible to depression while other genetic makeups are resistant to it. Even though this is based on facts, your genes don’t dictate your environment. Your healthy relationships and stability in life can increase resilience.

According to Harvard Health, the gender difference in depression first arises at puberty, with studies finding higher figures in girls aged 11. The hormonal changes that come with menstruation every month can bring about mood changes similar to those that occur in depression. Other women are prone to depression wherever hormone fluctuation occurs rapidly. What causes these fluctuations are pregnancy, fertility issues, menstruation, and menopause.

Researchers have suspected that the fluctuations in female hormones such as estrogen can underlie women’s greater vulnerability to depression. Nevertheless, these studies do not prove that hormonal fluctuations affect the mood in large groups of women. When factors such as stress and hormonal fluctuations interact, then there is a risk of depression.

Psychological factors – Research suggests that women are more prone to psychological causes of depression than men. This is because women are more likely to dwell on negative events during seasons of depression, and are more prone to anxiety. Research has also shown that ruminating over negative thoughts can cause depression to last longer and even worsen it.

On the other hand, men usually seek to distract themselves from their current depressive state which has been shown to reduce the duration of symptoms. Women suffer from stress-induced depression more than men because their increased levels of progesterone have been shown to prevent stress hormones from leveling out.

According to Harvard Health, a study found that poor physical health and lack of exercise were associated with gender gap depression even after the researchers monitored other factors such as employment and stress levels. Physical activity is known to boost moods among people with depression, but this study suggests the importance of physical fitness among women.

Social Causes – Childhood traumatic experiences can have a lasting effect on the brain and everyday experiences can add on to burdens. Women are more likely to be caregivers than men; taking care of young children, elderly parents, or both can be stressful and may lead to depression.

Below are different kinds of depression that are common among women.

Postpartum Depression

Postpartum depression is a form of depression that occurs after the birth of a baby. It is clinically known as a major depressive disorder with peripartum( a major depressive episode that occurs during pregnancy or within 4 weeks following delivery) onset.

Hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy and childbirth tend to trigger changes in the brain that lead to mood changes. Lack of sleep and extreme discomfort that comes pregnancy don’t make the issue better

Symptoms of postpartum depression can be much worse than major depression, these include:

  • sadness
  • anxiety
  • anger or rage
  • exhaustion
  • extreme worry about the baby‘s health and safety
  • difficulty caring for yourself or the new baby
  • thoughts of self-harm or harming the baby

Women who lack support or have had depression before are at increased risk of developing perinatal depression, but it can happen to anyone.

Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder

Premenstrual dysphoric disorder(PMDD) is a severe form of premenstrual syndrome. PMS symptoms can be both physical and psychological, but PMDD symptoms lean toward psychological.

Like postpartum, PMDD is believed to be related to hormonal changes with symptoms beginning just after ovulation and dissipating once you get your period.

PMDD is a kind of depression that is tied to a woman’s menstrual cycle. Severe mood swings, anxiety, and negative thoughts present themselves in the week prior to the start of menstruation and disappear once the menstrual period begins. These symptoms are more severe than the ones experienced with PMS. A woman may feel extremely emotional days before the period begins but with PMDD one can experience a level of depression and sadness that interferes with relationships and activities.

Symptoms of PMDD include:

  • cramps, bloating, and breast tenderness
  • headaches
  • joint and muscle pain
  • sadness and despair
  • irritability and anger
  • extreme mood swings
  • food cravings or binge eating
  • panic attacks or anxiety
  • lack of energy
  • trouble focusing
  • sleep problems

Depression is treatable and there is hope. If you are encountering the symptoms mentioned above, you may be going through depression. It is extremely important to see a mental health specialist who can help with diagnosis and treatment.

Suffering from depression silently can destroy your life. It is extremely important to seek help as soon as possible.

Click here to find out how depression affects men.

References

Christina Gregory, PhD. ”Depression in Women” (Feb 1 2020)

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