Women are twice as likely to suffer from depression as men.
Recently, the World Health Organization reported that depression poses
the greatest risk for women compared to all other illnesses. What makes
depression so prevalent in the lives of women?
Often women do not recognize the common symptoms of depression until
they are quite serious (persistent sad or anxious mood, loss of interest
in usual activities, feelings of worthlessness, difficulty
concentrating, sleep/appetite changes, decreased energy, thoughts of
self-injury, even suicide) – tending to attribute their symptom to other
things. There are some factors that seem to correlate with
vulnerability toward depression.
We know that depression is often seen in families, suggesting a
possible genetic component. Hormonal factors can also be involved, with
key developmental times in a woman’s life leaving her particularly
susceptible (puberty, adolescence, pregnancy and postpartum, menstrual
cycles and menopause.)
Frequently depressions are the result of life stresses such as
childhood trauma, violence or abuse in current relationships or other
highly stressful past or current situations. Sometimes, they are the
result of chronic stresses such as poor health, but at other times,
depression can follow a single incident — especially a serious personal
loss or emotional hurt of other kinds. Alternatively, they can be
triggered by such social factors as single parenting, lower pay in the
job market, or racial and ethnic discrimination.
Women are sometimes socialized from childhood to have ways of viewing
the world that can also contribute to depression such as difficulty
with assertiveness (passivity), reluctance to “make waves” in
relationships, or seek their own needs. These women may not recognize
they are depressed because they have never known more effective coping
Some women also find setting limits with others so difficult that
they become depressed as a result. Women may discount symptoms of
depression, attributing them instead to fatigue from work or family
care. It is not uncommon for depressed women to find ways to cope that
are not in their own best interest—such as substance abuse, overeating,
excessive spending, isolation or over-functioning.
The important news it this: depression can be treated. Generally it
is best dealt with by using some combination of psychotherapy and/or
medication. Doing some alternative things such as increased exercise,
making lifestyle changes, etc, help, but when there is serious
depression, an evaluation by a professional is needed to help make
recommendations for the best course to take.
With depression, psychotherapy will often focus on interpersonal
relationships (it may be individual, couple or family in approach),
cognitive understandings, and improved coping techniques. However,
medication may be a necessary part of the treatment process as well. If
you, or someone you know, is dealing with depression, consider making an
appointment for an evaluation to discuss what specific treatment might
be helpful for you.
Copyright Kathi Whitten 2008