Depression: Getting Back to Feeling Good
Women may be the fairer sex, but they are also more depressed than their male counterparts. Depression affects nearly twice as many women as men, and nearly one in four women will likely experience depression in her lifetime.
Two main types of depression affect women most often:
- Major depression can interfere with a woman’s ability to do everyday things such as work, go to school, sleep, care for her family or even care for herself. Because it is so pervasive, major depression can be disabling if not treated.
- Dysthymia is similar to major depression, but the symptoms are not as disabling. Women with dysthymia can still carry on their day-to-day lives, but generally feel “down” or don’t feel well. Symptoms may last two years or more.
Are you at risk?
- Researchers don’t know why women are more prone to depression than men, but it is likely a combination of several factors, including genetics, brain chemistry, hormones and lifestyle. Depression may “run in the family”; however, many women who are depressed have no family history of depression.
- Brain-imaging studies have found that the areas of the brain that control mood, thoughts, sleep and behavior don’t function normally in people in depression, and chemicals that enable brain cells to communicate, called neurotransmitters, seem to be out of balance.
- Hormonal changes may also play a role in depression, as may stress.
- Other psychological illnesses, such as anxiety or obsessive-compulsive disorder, also may make women more vulnerable to depression.
- Some physical illnesses may cause depression as well.
Whatever the reason, the majority of women with depression can be successfully treated. Depending on the individual and the severity of the depression, treatment can range from changes in diet and exercise to psychotherapy, medication or some combination of these.
Warning signs and symptoms
Symptoms of depression vary from woman to woman, but if you experience any of the following nearly every day for two weeks or more, you may be depressed:
- Sadness or hopelessness
- Crying frequently
- Feeling guilty, helpless or worthless
- Thoughts of death or suicide
- Sleeping too much or being unable to sleep
- Losing or gaining weight without trying
- No longer interested in activities you used to enjoy
- Constant fatigue
- Feeling distracted, restless, anxious or irritable
- Unable to make decisions
- Unexplained aches and pains that don’t improve with treatment
If you believe you may be depressed, the first step is to make an appointment with your physician. He or she can rule out other causes and recommend treatment. For a referral, call 1-800-SCRIPPS (800-727-4777) or see our doctor finder.