Are Women Predisposed to Depression?
Depression in Women
By January 1, 2012 2,880 1
Depression can strike anyone, no matter age, gender, ethnic background or financial status. But studies show this condition is more common in women than men. In a one-year period, depression affects nearly 12 percent of women compared with seven percent of men in the U.S. And it’s most common in women ages 25 to 44.
Why Is Depression So Much More Common In Women Than Men?
Why is there such a notable gap between the genders? Is depression really more common in women, or are they just more likely than men to recognize it and seek help?
Researchers are still trying to solve this puzzle. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), it’s likely that a combination of genetic, biological, environmental, psychological and social factors play a role in women’s increased risk for depression.
A woman with a family history of depression does have an increased risk of developing the illness. But that doesn’t mean she will. Even if it doesn’t run in her family, a woman can develop depression, while someone with a family history of the illness may not ever have to face it.
Before puberty, boys and girls experience depression at similar rates. But when a girl hits adolescence, her risk soars to twice that of boys. From puberty and pregnancy, to giving birth or coping with a miscarriage, to menopause – women’s hormones are in a constant state of flux. These hormonal changes can sometimes alter brain chemicals that control mood and emotion, which can in turn trigger depression. Oral contraceptives with high progesterone content may also be another risk factor for depression in females.
Stressful life circumstances & cultural differences
Biology isn’t solely to blame for women’s higher risk. Stressful life situations and cultural differences also play a role. Many struggle to juggle work demands with raising a family or caring for ill or older family members. Other stressful events, including loss of a loved one, a challenging relationship with a teen or a spouse, or financial difficulties can trigger depression.
For some women, including single moms, a limited income and poverty add to worries about an uncertain future and less access to healthcare. Minority women may be dealing with the stress of racial discrimination. These concerns may intensify feelings of hopelessness or low self-esteem, raising risk of depression. Research also shows that women tend to respond differently to stress, holding onto their negative feelings longer than men.
Other conditions that co-exist with depression
Depression can co-exist with serious medical illnesses, such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes. When present with other health complications, the symptoms of both illnesses tend to be more severe. But research shows that treating depression along with a co-existing illness can help to ease both conditions.
There are other mental health conditions that often overlap with depression in women, including eating disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder and social phobias. Although more common in men than women, alcohol or substance abuse may also accompany depression, making it harder to treat.
Overwhelmed? You’re not alone.
Seems a bit overwhelming doesn’t it? You’re not alone. Depression is common and can be successfully treated. Talk to your primary care provider first. He or she can diagnose you and guide your treatment, or refer you to a medical doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating depression. You don’t have to live with depression. Be confident that with the right treatment, you can enjoy a happier, more productive life.
Other Related Resources:
Mayo Clinic: “Depression in women: Understanding the gender gap.”
National Institute of Mental Health: “Women and Depression: Discovering Hope.”