Depression in Women

Twice as many women as men develop depression at some point in their lives.

Depression in women is influenced by genetic predisposition, personality factors, socioeconomic factors and relationship issues. Some researchers believe that drastic fluctuations in hormones can increase a woman's risk of developing depression.

Women also often experience seasonal affective disorder and have symptoms of anxiety, panic, phobia, hypothyroidism, increased appetite and sleep, weight gain and eating disorders. They usually turn their feelings inward and blame themselves, but at the same time women more often seek help for depression than men.

Depression in women is sometimes related to some specific periods:

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and Depression

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is very common in women of reproductive age. Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) is more severe form of PMS and between 3 and 5 percent of women have such disabling condition that requires treatment. Both conditions are characterized by the physical and emotional changes that can occur in the two week period between ovulation and menstruation and both can include depression symptoms.

The symptoms are:

  • Feeling depressed
  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability / anger
  • Insomnia / hypersomnia
  • Uncontrollable crying spells
  • Breast tenderness
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Bloating
  • Cramping
  • Weight gain

Pregnancy and Depression

Pregnancy with the dramatic hormonal changes along with other factors such as a history of depression or substance abuse, PMDD, anxiety about the fetus or limited social support and marital conflict in some cases may trigger depression.

The symptoms for depression in pregnancy usually are:

  • Stronger emotional reactions
  • Problems sleeping
  • Abnormal changes in body weight
  • Fatigue

Some normal pregnancy changes may cause similar symptoms. Depression during pregnancy is often not recognized and treated.

Depression During Perimenopause and Menopause

Perimenopause is the transition period to menopause when ovarian hormone levels rise and fall unevenly. This means that ovulation becomes less frequent. Perimenopause can begin anytime between ages 35-45 and may take up to ten years. Women are more vulnerable to depression during perimenopause.

Menopause is a natural aging process that represents the end of menstruation and a woman's reproductive years. A woman is in menopause after her periods have stopped for 12 months. Menopause happens anytime between the ages of 40 and 58 naturally. Menopause also can be induced through medical intervention (chemotherapy for cancer treatment) and surgical intervention like removing uterus (hysterectomy) or removing ovaries (oophorectomy).

Depression in perimenopause and menopause should be treated in the same way as depression that strikes at any other time. Symptoms can be mild, moderate or severe.

Signs and Symptoms:

  • Depressed mood
  • Anxiety
  • Menstrual irregularities
  • Hot flashes
  • Night sweats
  • Insomnia
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Mood swings
  • Weight gain
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Vaginal dryness and thinning

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