While women are more likely than men to experience depression, women are also more likely than men to seek treatment.
Since women can at times be more in touch with their emotions than men, however, symptoms of milder forms of depression can often be dismissed as simple reactions to life changes or everyday stressors.
It’s important to know the symptoms of clinical depression in order to know when to seek treatment.
Basics of Depression
Everyone has days where they feel down and even weeks of sadness after a major negative life event. However, depression takes sadness a step further, often lasting weeks, months, and even years. Experts often state two weeks as a benchmark for depression, although each patient is different.
The key with depression is that it is characterized by an ongoing sense of helplessness and even worthlessness, and results in a loss of interest in things that once gave you pleasure. Depressed patients also often experience feelings of fatigue and sleeplessness or excess sleeping in addition to a change in eating habits that could manifest in overeating or a loss of appetite.
Symptoms may show up differently from patient to patient, but in some patients thoughts of suicide may appear, at which point it is urgent that you seek help. While depressed men are more likely to die from suicide, women are more likely to attempt suicide.
This may prompt the immediate need for treatment, but it’s best if a woman seeks treatment as soon as depression symptoms begin, ensuring she resumes her quality of life as quickly as possible.
Some women experience depression in the days, weeks, and even months following childbirth.
Postpartum depression has been linked to the sudden change in hormones that follow pregnancy, added to the sudden overwhelming responsibility of caring for a new baby. While some women get a mild case of the “baby blues” following childbirth, postpartum depression is usually much more severe, with a marked loss of energy and interest in your surroundings, as well as anxiety, sleeplessness, and feeling disconnected.
Thoughts of suicide can also appear during this tumultuous time, so it is important to seek help if you think you might have postpartum depression.
Researchers have found that many women who suffer from postpartum depression had experienced previous depressive episodes earlier in life, possibly even during pregnancy. By being honest with your doctor about what you are feeling during pregnancy, you can prepare yourself and your healthcare professionals for the possibility of postpartum depression after childbirth, avoiding further exacerbation of problems.
Depression in Older Women
As with the postpartum period, menopause puts women at an increased risk for depression, with the hormone changes creating problems in those women already at risk.
In general, older women are at higher risk than older men for developing depression, with life events like retirement, menopause, and serious illnesses sometimes inciting it. In older women, depression often goes untreated as the patients are less likely to mention feeling sad.
When it is mentioned, a physician may check to make sure health conditions aren’t causing the condition, as sometimes restricted blood flow can cause depression-like symptoms. This is called “vascular depression.”
Depression and Other Disorders
In women and adolescent girls, depression can sometimes manifest in additional conditions, such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia. In fact, most eating disorder cases are related to other emotional problems, with the eating issues usually related to distorted self-esteem. Anorexia usually appears in adolescence and has been linked to brain chemistry, especially serotonin, which is the chemical believed to be at play in depression. Like depression, anorexia is often linked to genetics, with one fifth of all patients having a relative that has had an eating disorder.
While it’s more common in males, some female patients may try to self-medicate with drugs, alcohol, or nicotine. This can be dangerous in that over time, an addiction may develop and the patient may be required to obtain treatment for both the addiction and depression.
Depression is a serious illness, related closely to genetics and brain chemistry. Advancements in treatment through psychotherapy and medication have made it possible for those suffering from depression to? lead a long, healthy life, making it more important than ever to seek treatment.