Depression in women

Depression in Women: Signs and Treatment

Depression in women is very common. In fact, women are twice as likely to develop clinical depression as men.

Depression is a serious and pervasive mood disorder. It causes feelings of sadness, hopelessness, helplessness, and worthlessness. Depression can be mild to moderate with symptoms of apathy, little appetite, difficulty sleeping, low self-esteem, and low-grade fatigue. Or it can be more severe.

Symptoms of Depression in Women?

  • Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness, hopelessness, pessimism
  • Appetite and/or weight loss, or overeating and weight gain
  • Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
  • Persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, such as headaches, digestive disorders, and chronic pain
  • Restlessness, crankiness, or excessive crying
  • Trouble concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities, including sex
  • Sleeping too much or too little, early-morning waking
  • Less energy, fatigue, feeling “slowed down”

What Raises the Chances of Depression in Women?

According to the National Institutes of Health, things that increase the risk of depression in women include reproductive, genetic, or other biological factors; interpersonal factors; and certain psychological and personality characteristics. In addition, women juggling work with raising kids and women who are single parents suffer more stress that may trigger symptoms of depression. Other things that could increase risk include:

  • Ongoing psychological and social stress, such as loss of a job, relationship stress, separation, or divorce
  • Family history of mood disorders
  • Physical or sexual abuse as a child
  • Loss of a parent before age 10
  • Use of certain medications

Women can also get postpartum depression after giving birth. Some people get seasonal affective disorder in the winter. Depression is one part of bipolar disorder.

Different forms of depression

Persistent Depressive Disorder

Considered a milder form of depression, this is an extended depressed mood that lasts for two years or more. Major depressive episodes (i.e., more severe forms of depression) may still occur during persistent depressive disorder.

Major Depression

Major depression is a severe form of depression where a woman loses her ability to find pleasure in activities once considered enjoyable. In addition, it affects a woman’s ability to work, sleep, and eat in normal and effective manners and usually negatively impacts interpersonal and social relationships. With major depression, also known as major depressive disorder, your depressed state may persist for an extended period of time and is often accompanied with low self-esteem.

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Postpartum Depression

This is a special form of depression that occurs after the birth of a baby – often referred to as the “baby blues.” Typical symptoms of depression begin in the months following birth, while in some women, they can occur while still pregnant.

Treatment Options

If you are a woman and suffering from depression, it is best to seek treatment right away to improve your quality of life. Your first course of action should be a visit to your doctor or mental health professional. Your doctor will ask you a series of questions and perform tests to rule out an underlying medical condition causing your depression or determine if certain medications might be to blame for your depressed mental state. Your primary care doctor will also ask you a number of questions about your symptoms – how long they have lasted, when they started, the severity of your symptoms, how persistent they are (re-occurrence rate), and your family history of depression. If your doctor suspects you may be suffering from depression, he or she will refer you to a mental health specialist who can formally diagnose your condition and make recommendations for treatment.

In addition to medications and therapy, the self-help techniques below can help improve your mood if you are suffering from depression:

  • Exercise regularly
  • Don’t keep your feelings bottled up – find a support group with people you trust
  • Get enough sleep – 8 hours per night is ideal
  • Meditate, try yoga, or practice other relaxation techniques
  • Stay engaged in social activities and social functions

Side plank leg lifts

The side plank leg lift is a variation of the standard plank. It’s more advanced, so you may want to save this move for 6 to 8 weeks postpartum. This exercise will work your glutes, obliques, and to a lesser degree, the shoulder muscles.

  1. Lie on your stomach with your forearms on the floor and elbows beneath shoulders. Your feet will be flexed with toes on the floor.
  2. Go on one forearm and turn sideways.
  3. Raise your body off the floor to get into a side plank position.
  4. Raise your top leg and hold it in the air for 20 to 30 seconds or repeatedly perform leg raises until the time is up.
  5. Perform 1 to 2 sets on each side.

Bottom Line

Depression is a treatable condition, and people do not have to cope with it alone. People with potential symptoms of depression can seek help from a trusted professional.

The signs of depression in women can be very similar to other genders. However, women may be more likely to express sadness rather than anger. They are also less likely than men to cope via substance misuse.

Additionally, there are specific conditions that cause depression in women who have periods or have given birth.

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