Although clinical depression can hit anyone, it is almost twice as likely to affect women than men. In fact, it is the most common mental health problem in women.
Clinical depression can impact every area of a woman’s life — physical health, social life, relationships, career, and sense of self-worth. But the good news is that depression is treatable, and gaining a deeper understanding of it is a good first step towards recovery.
Here are things you should know about depression in women:
#1. Depression in women is very common
Twelve million women in the United States experience depression each year. What’s more, about one in every four women tend to have an episode of major depression at some point in their lives.
Prior to adolescence, depression is rare and occurs at about the same rate in boys and girls. However, at the onset of puberty, a girl’s risk of developing depression increases dramatically to twice that of boys.
#2. Certain types of depression are unique to women
Many factors that are unique to women may contribute to depression, such as hormonal, reproductive, biological, and social factors. Given this, there are certain types of depression that only women experience as they go through different life stages:
- Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD)
While moodiness and irritability a week or weeks before menstruation — also known as premenstrual syndrome (PMS) — are quite common in women (20–40% of women experience this), what is less common (3–5% of women experience this) is a more severe form of PMS called PMDD.
PMDD is a serious condition that occurs a week or weeks prior to menstruation. It has severe, disabling symptoms like irritability, anger, sadness, suicidal thoughts, appetite changes, bloating, breast tenderness, and joint or muscle pain.
- Perinatal depression
This type of depression occurs during or after (postpartum) pregnancy and is much more serious than what others call “baby blues” — a term used to describe mild, fleeting feelings of worry, unhappiness, mood swings, and fatigue from being pregnant or caring for a newborn. Perinatal depression is defined by lasting feelings of extreme sadness, anxiety, and exhaustion that make it very difficult for a pregnant or new mom to care for her baby.
- Perimenopausal and menopausal depression
Perimenopause — the transition into menopause — is a normal but challenging phase in a woman’s life that typically begins in her 40s and lasts until menstruation has ceased for a year.
Once a woman stops having her monthly period for a year and experiences symptoms related to the lack of estrogen production, she enters into menopause. This typically occurs in women in their late 40s to early 50s.
Women going through these stages may experience irregular menstrual periods, sleeping problems, mood swings, and hot flashes due to the rapid fluctuation of reproductive hormones. But those struggling with irritability, anxiety, sadness, or loss of enjoyment during this transition may already be experiencing perimenopausal or menopausal depression.
#3. Depression in women differ from depression in men
Depression in women usually occurs earlier, lasts longer, is more likely to recur, and is more likely to be associated with stressful life events. Women are more susceptible to developing depression triggered by stress because they produce more stress hormones than men, and the female sex hormone progesterone prevents the stress hormone system from turning itself off as it does in men.
Women are also more likely to experience guilt and negative feelings. Their depression often goes hand in hand with eating disorders, like anorexia and bulimia, unlike that of men that are usually accompanied by substance abuse. They also tend to have more attempts at suicide, but fewer women kills themselves than men.
Fortunately, women are also more likely to seek out a diagnosis of depression. They tend to be more open to consulting and discussing their feelings with mental health professionals.
If you think you or someone you know might be suffering from depression, you can easily avail of psychiatric and psychotherapy services in any of the three convenient locations of Meridian Psychiatric Partners, LLC: Chicago, Evanston, and Lake Forest. Get in touch with us!