Depression in women has a lifetime prevalence rate of 20 percent. This is double the likelihood of men to experience depression, which is only around 10-11 percent. Its usual onset is between the ages of 40 and 59.
Some mood changes and depressed feelings occur with normal hormonal changes, but estrogen cannot be the sole reason for this increased prevalence.
Women are confronted with a lot of life experiences and situations that could be potential predispositions for them to develop depression.
Puberty and Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)
One example of a situation that contributes to depression in women is puberty. It is typically associated with other risk factors that can play a role in depression.
For instance, it is the time when emerging sexuality and identity issues are prevalent among young women. It is also the peak of increased pressure from peers, school, and parents, among others. These factors leave them extremely vulnerable to developing depression.
Premenstrual syndrome, or PMS, also plays a role in the development of depression in women. During this time, women typically experience symptoms such as abdominal bloating, breast tenderness, headache, anxiety, and irritability. While relatively short lived, some women develop more severe and disabling symptoms of depression that interfere with their daily functioning.
Depression and Pregnancy
Meanwhile, depression in women who are pregnant is also one thing to take note of. A cocktail of pregnancy hormones circulate the woman’s body, and these important regulators of excitatory neurotransmitters will consequently effect mood. Other stressful situations such as unemployment and lack of social support, when coupled with pregnancy, will greatly increase the risk for developing depression.
There is also a phenomenon known as post-partum depression. It is usually felt by mothers during the first few days after giving birth. It is usually caused by the sudden role change experienced by the woman, from being pregnant to being a mother. Feelings of insecurity and inadequacy will predominate because the woman thinks that she is not yet ready to become a mother.
She has her own needs, having just finished giving birth, but being a mother would mean that she has to put the baby’s needs first. This transitional stage is a confusing time for the woman, and she may experience these symptoms:
• Low self-esteem
• Reluctance to hold the baby
• Thoughts of harming the baby
• Suicidal ideations and gestures
Depression and Menopause
Risk of depression may also increase during the transitional stages toward menopause. Because of the variable levels of hormones during this time (mostly decreased estrogen), these women experience several uncomfortable symptoms. This alone is not a precipitating factor, but combined with a positive history of depression, the risk for its recurrence will undoubtedly go up.
There are a multitude of options available to treat depression in women. The effective treatment options include:
A combination of the professional help in the form of medication and talk therapy provides best outcomes. You can also consult with your doctor and add the supplements and self help techniques in your recovery path.
Brees, K. (2008). The Everything Guide to Depression. Avon, MA: F+W Publications, Inc.
Depression fact sheet. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women's Health. http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/ our-publications/fact-sheet/depression.cfm. Accessed April 28, 2013.
Sadock, B., Sadock, V. (2007). Kaplan and Sadock’s Synopsis of Psychiatry: Behavioral Sciences/Clinical Psychiatry (10th edition). Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.