Depression in women. It might be more prevalent than you realize. In this post, let’s look in detail at the types, causes, symptoms, and treatment options.
People have come to describe anyone with a low mood as being depressed. However, a distinct difference exists between feeling blue and having a depressive mood disorder. Although there may be similarities between patients with depression, their symptoms could vary depending on the severity of their condition.
Why the Focus on Women?
Medical professionals have noted that they receive more women as patients than from other genders. Consequently, gender-based differences can be observed in symptoms among patients.
The findings are backed by research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which reports that approximately 1 in 10 women in the past year in the United States experienced a depressive episode. Given the prevalence in women, let’s look next at the types of depression.
Types of Depression in Women
While anyone can receive a diagnosis of depression, there are certain depressive disorders that only women can develop. For this reason, specialist facilities like Jackson House can guide women and their partners in finding the best solution for their type of depression. Here are some of those specific conditions for better understanding:
1. Postpartum Depression
The birth of a child is a significant turning point in a parent’s life, especially for the mother. Not only would she need to adjust to a new routine that includes taking care of her baby, but she would also have changes in her body after the delivery that could be difficult to accept.
Furthermore, physical changes, hormonal changes, exhaustion, and increased stress could contribute to a low mood or full-blown postpartum depression.
2. Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD)
Many are familiar with the mood swings their menstrual cycle could bring about. However, for some women, these symptoms may worsen to such an extent that it affects their daily activities like personal care, work, and relationships with their loved ones.
Along with the varying moods, they may be anxious or have persistent negative feelings or thoughts for seven to ten days before the start of their cycle. As soon as their menstruation starts, these feelings could dissipate, and they may feel and seem more like their usual selves.
3. Persistent Depressive Disorder
Mental health practitioners may describe this disorder as a milder form of depression. Even if a woman exhibits the same symptoms as the practitioner would expect to see for depressive disorders, they tend to have a lesser effect on their daily life.
It doesn’t make the condition any less valid, and these women tend to struggle for around two years on average before receiving a diagnosis and the correct treatment.
4. Major Depressive Disorder
A woman with this disorder may struggle daily with interpersonal and social relations, lose interest in hobbies they were previously passionate about, and may sleep excessively or not at all. Over several months, their mood may not significantly improve, no matter how much effort they put into feeling better about themselves.
Major depressive disorder may not be specific to women only, although they are twice as likely to develop the condition, according to PubMed.
Causes of Depression in Women
Stressors could differ significantly between individuals of any and all genders. More specifically, women may have a higher risk of developing a depressive condition due to the pressures of society and family. People with depression tend to employ different strategies for dealing with their circumstances, which may also contribute to their mental wellness alongside these risk factors:
- Familial history of mental illness, especially depression
- Little to no support from family or friends
- Stressful careers with no work-life balance
- More than one child to care for while juggling work and home responsibilities
- Having children at a young age
- Complications with pregnancy or preterm delivery
- Hormonal changes regarding estrogen during puberty or menopause
- Suppression in some cultures could lead to inadequate coping mechanisms
- Low self-esteem and body image due to social pressure
Women share unique risk factors that exclude other genders. Additionally, these factors significantly increase the likelihood of being diagnosed with a mental health condition like depression or anxiety. Other causes that are generally experienced by people prone to depression may also include:
- Use of medications that may have a mood-altering effect
- Emotional, sexual, or physical abuse during childhood or from a spouse
- Death of a loved one like a parent, child, or spouse
- Loss of a partner through separation or divorce
- Loss of employment
The causes listed here are the most common among women who report depression. But even so, there may be any number of reasons why women can have mental health challenges.
Symptoms of Depression in Women
Being aware of and noticing the signs and symptoms of depression could help women to seek help sooner rather than later. Recognizing them in yourself, a friend, significant other, or a family member may open the door for conversations about the topic and guidance to find the best solutions.
Better Help, an online mental health platform, explains how professionals use the DSM 5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual) to diagnose psychiatric conditions like depression. The DSM has clear clinical characteristics, whereas the explanation below from Very Well Mind makes them easier to understand:
- A persistent sadness throughout the day could be challenging to navigate
- Feeling uninspired for starting the day, which could include not taking care of personal care or small daily tasks
- No longer experiencing happiness and joy from doing their favorite activities like hobbies
- Withdrawing from social interactions with those closest to them, including partners, children, friends, or family
- Overwhelming fatigue could alter sleep patterns, causing the person to sleep more, become restless, or feel exhausted
- Feelings of intense guilt or worthlessness could affect their self-esteem and self-image
- Recurring thoughts about suicide or self-harming
The above signs and symptoms could be present for all depressive disorders, but in the case of postpartum depression, a woman may have additional symptoms to consider. Below are some of them, according to Healthline:
- Sad feelings that could lead to frequent crying
- Being overwhelmed with being a new mom
- Intrusive thoughts about hurting the baby or herself
- Not showing a lot of interest in caring for the baby
- Feeling like they aren’t fit as a parent
- Not eating at all or overeating
- Anxious feelings throughout the day
- Physical symptoms like chronic headaches
Seeing any or all of the signs and symptoms can be alarming to family or friends. Having an open and honest discussion with her can be a good start toward treatment, which leads to the next section here.
Treatment Options for Depression in Women
Thankfully, there are many resources available that women can turn to for help. Some may include therapy, medication, more holistic options, or preventative measures they can take to look after their mental health.
As each woman is unique in her needs, consult a professional to guide her to the proper treatment. Not all women will respond equally well to each of the methods of improving their depression, so contacting one of the following may narrow down the choices:
- Counselors at work as part of a team member assistance program
- Physicians that oversee the general healthcare of women
- Social workers or agencies in the area
- Mental health clinics or specialist centers
- Psychologists or psychiatrists that focus on women’s mental health
- State or private hospitals
- Other health organizations willing to provide more information on depression
Finding the most suitable treatment option(s) will be more likely to deliver better results, which means choosing one or more could be crucial to a woman’s recovery. Popular choices for treatment could include:
1. Traditional Therapy
Psychotherapy, like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), is a common choice for treating depressive disorders. Not only will a therapist be there to guide women through their experiences, but the process can also teach valuable coping skills to incorporate into daily life or apply to new situations that may arise.
A trained mental health practitioner or psychotherapist can provide regular sessions. Be aware that not all offer the same treatment approaches. Women may need to reach out to a few therapists in the local area before finding one that is a good fit.
Depending on the severity of the depression, psychiatrists could add medicines to the patient’s treatment in addition to some other methods. Antidepressants can assist in lifting and managing the woman’s mood so she feels more in control, as part of an overall treatment plan that also involves therapy, for example.
Not all women will react equally well to the same medication. Professionals could thus determine the best dose or combination, which may take some time to perfect. Meanwhile, patients could experience various side effects, as the prescribing doctor will explain.
3. Life Coaching
Similar to CBT and DBT, both talk-based therapies, life coaching could help women focus on their future and set attainable goals for their recovery and other areas of their lives. Life coaching can help women feel less overwhelmed with emotion.
While a life coach may not provide the answers to challenging situations, they can guide a woman toward making better choices and changing her thought patterns. Many coaches will have a website listing their credentials and experience to help find a suitable one. Before booking a session, women should consider the coach’s reputation and credentials to ensure they receive help from a knowledgeable source.
4. Treatment Facilities
If untreated, depression can have devastating effects. If a mental health professional feels it would be in their patient’s best interest to refer them to a treatment facility, they could suggest one focusing on depression. Once admitted there, patients can set everything else aside to concentrate solely on improving their mental health.
Treatment facilities offer different programs varying in length. With the help of their primary mental health professional, women can find one that will benefit them the most. Some medical aids could even cover the costs of a stay at these facilities to help alleviate the financial stress of women.
5. Additional Resources
When done in conjunction with other treatment approaches, holistic methods may provide physical and mental wellness benefits for some people. Examples include massage therapy, yoga, and mindfulness.
Another way to care for mental health could be to set up a preventative routine that brings calm and organization to the day and one’s thoughts. Here are some helpful techniques:
- Don’t skip meals, especially breakfast, as the body needs the nutrients to maintain hormone levels, among other functions. Also, add more fresh fruit and vegetables that bring variety to the diet and provide the vitamins, minerals, and fiber the body will need throughout the day.
- Take up a new, creative hobby to transform negative thoughts while focusing on creating something meaningful.
- Practice skills and techniques the mental health professional suggests. These may seem daunting to try or, because of negative thinking, seem unnecessary. According to Medical News Today, cognitive restructuring could turn negative thoughts into more constructive responses over time if women frequently practice their new responses.
- Set a proper sleep routine to get the maximum amount of rest. Exhaustion may allow intrusive thoughts to surface and negatively impact the women’s capability of dealing with them when they don’t have enough energy.
- Forge healthy, supportive relationships with family, friends, co-workers, or anyone that can help with positive reinforcement. Doing so will create a safety net for women should they need it.
- Carefully follow the healthcare team’s direction, whether attending regular therapy sessions, taking prescription medications, taking time off, or making lifestyle adjustments. The whole treatment plan could be set back by a patient not doing as instructed.
Treatments for depression may differ between physical regions, and finding assistance in remote areas can be challenging. Thankfully, mental health services are becoming increasingly available online, enabling patients to receive online therapy (teletherapy) from home. For a woman struggling with a depressive disorder, finding a professional resource for treatment is essential.
There is a distinct variation in depression in women, as explained in detail above. Understanding and focusing on these differences may help achieve better outcomes for women struggling with depression.
Mental health shouldn’t define a person or their capabilities. Specialized care, such as therapy, must become more socially accepted and be available to all women, regardless of age, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, or any other personal trait.
Please note that this article’s information is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to be medical advice. If you recognize any signs or symptoms mentioned here in yourself or a loved one, please consult a professional medical doctor or other healthcare practitioners, like a psychologist or counselor, for a proper diagnosis and treatment.
Top image: Adobe Stock photo
4 thoughts on “Depression in Women: A Look at Types, Causes, Symptoms & Treatment”
Hi Christy, a comprehensive post about depression in women. Fortunately, depression is a lot better understood now than in the past and it is easier to get medical treatment.
Yes, I’m glad there is more knowledge now. Hopefully the stigma surrounding talking about mental illness will become less and less over the years. Wishing you a nice weekend, Robbie
You too 💗