Statistically, adult women suffer twice as much from depression as men. The reasons include social differences, physical and hormonal differences, and age-related differences. The most important fact about depression in women is that treatment can be highly successful. Consider the following facts from the National Institute of Mental Health.
• Are women more prone to depression?
• Depression in Women of Different Ages
• Depression in Elderly Women
• Physical and Hormonal Causes
• Other Factors
Why are women more prone to depression?
There are three types of clinical depression: major depression, dysthymia (a milder form of depression) and bipolar disorder (in which the patient cycles between depression and mania, a state of hyper-euphoria).
Women are affected twice as often by major depression and dysthymia. Bipolar disorder affects women and men equally, though women with bipolar disorder tend to have more depressive and fewer manic episodes. These findings have been consistent in studies from numerous countries all over the world.
Depression in Women of Different Ages
Interestingly, the rates of depression in children are about the same for boys and girls. This rate rises sharply for girls between the ages of 11 and 13. By the time a girl turns 15, she is twice as likely as a boy to experience depression. Girls also show higher rates of anxiety, eating disorders and adjustment disorders. Boys, on the other hand, have a higher incidence of acting-out behaviors, such as conduct disorder and oppositional defiant disorder.
Girls, it seems, more often turn their anxiety inward, while boys act out their emotional difficulties.
It is thought that the rise in depression in girls from childhood to puberty is related to both emotional stress and hormonal changes. Adolescence can be a time filled with stress in school, pressure to become sexually active and disagreements with parents. It is also a time of major hormonal changes.
It is no wonder that some girls experience depression at this time in their lives.
If a girl has a parent who has experienced major depression, especially her mother, she is more likely to become depressed. A history of abuse frequently results in depression. Since many more girls than boys are reportedly abused physically, emotionally or sexually, it makes sense that this contributes to higher levels of depression in girls and women.
It is commonly thought that there is a spike in depression among middle-age women, especially those experiencing empty-nest syndrome. There is no evidence that this is true.
Women who are in satisfying relationships are less likely to be depressed than those who are single, widowed, divorced, or in troubled martial or family situations. Women (or men) of any age who have optimistic, resilient outlooks on life are thought to be immunized to a degree from depression.
Depression in Elderly Women
Being elderly is not linked by itself to a greater prevalence of depression in women. In fact, many elderly men and women have developed coping skills that make them less likely to become depressed.
Some elderly women are at higher risk. Nearly 1 million women in the United States are widowed each year. One in three widows or widowers have major depressive episodes following the loss. About half of them remain depressed after one year. Other risk factors for the elderly (men or women) include loneliness and isolation, as well as chronic pain or illness.
Physical and Hormonal Causes
Some women experience changes in mood and behavior that are associated with the time before they begin their monthly menstrual period. Commonly known as PMS (premenstrual syndrome), these symptoms begin after ovulation and increase in severity until the onset of the menstrual period.
Women experiencing symptoms of PMS should consult their doctors, as there are new and successful treatments for this syndrome.
Other women experience moderate to severe depression after the birth of a baby. Studies show that many women who experience postpartum depression have had one or more previous bouts of undiagnosed depression. A woman with postpartum depression should consult her doctor immediately.
There is no evidence that pregnancy (unless it is unwanted) or menopause contribute to increased rates of depression.
There is no evidence that race or ethnicity contribute greatly to different rates of depression. There is some evidence that depression is under-reported in certain ethnic groups. Because poverty introduces a number of stressors into life, it would make sense that it would have an impact on depression in women who have higher rates of poverty than men. There have not been conclusive studies proving this link.
The good news is that depression, although very debilitating, is also very treatable. A combination of medication and traditional talk therapy is often prescribed.
Medication for depression is successful in reducing symptoms for about 70 percent of patients. If one medication is not successful or has undesirable side effects, another can be tried.
Talk therapy is successful in reducing the stress that contributes to depression.
There has been a great deal of attention in the media about the use of the herb St. John’s Wort for the treatment of depression. Widely used in Europe, studies are now being conducted on the safety and success of this herb in treating mild to moderate depression. Before taking this or any other herb or medication for depression, consult your doctor.
If you have a new health insurance plan or insurance policy beginning on or after Sept. 23, 2010, depression screenings for adults must be covered under the Affordable Care Act, without your having to pay a co-payment or co-insurance or meet your deductible. This applies only when these services are delivered by a network provider, and some other restrictions may apply. So if you suffering with any of the above symptoms please talk to someone.
• National Institute of Mental Health: http://www.nimh.nih.gov
• National Alliance on Mental Illness: http://www.nami.org
• Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance: http://www.dbsalliance.org
• International Foundation for Research and Education on Depression: http://www.ifred.org
• Mental Health America: http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net
• HealthCare.gov: http://www.healthcare.gov