Understanding the relationship between women and depression is quite complex. Life is unpredictable. Sometimes everything seems to be okay. Other times, we may be faced with some problems that will make us feel sad and low. Although this is just a normal course in life, our coping mechanisms are very important to help us pass through this life problems. For most people, this is referred to as the normal “blues” when you are feeling down. However, if this goes on for the next 2 weeks or so and is now affecting your normal daily functions, it becomes a problem of depression.
Getting to know depression
Depression is a feeling of sadness that affects the physical, emotional, mental, and social wellbeing of a person. This may be caused by a lot of factors and can both affect men and women at any given time in a year. Some episodes last only for a couple of days while some last for weeks, months, and even years.
The prevalence of women affected by depression over men
Some studies show that depression affects women twice as men, which means that the ratio is 2:1. The specific cause why more women are affected by depression than men is still unclear. However, some factors such as hormonal, reproductive, genetic, and abuse that are only unique to women may greatly play a role on why women are more affected than men. These are explained further below.
Depression during puberty
Young girls reach the stage of puberty sooner than boys do. For this reason, they are at a higher risk to develop depression sooner than boys are. This continues until menopause where a lot of hormonal changes in puberty happen in a woman’s body. This may increases a woman’s risk for depression. There are also other issues during puberty that may cause one to become depressed such as pressure in school and peers, parental gap or conflict, identity issues, and sexuality.
Depression during pre menstruation
Another factor unique only to women is premenstrual syndrome or PMS. Days or weeks before menstruation, women may experience feelings of irritability, loneliness, sadness, or generally feeling down and blue. However, this is usually due to hormone changes and normally disappears during or after the menstrual period. But if this continues and becomes severe to the point that it is becoming disruptive, affecting the life and relationships of the person, then PMS becomes PMDD or premenstrual dysphoric disorder. This type of depression requires monitoring and treatment.
Depression during pregnancy
During pregnancy, women go through many hormonal changes that affect their mood. It can further escalate as additional issues, life problems, and conflicts go with it. These may include miscarriage, unwanted pregnancy, mixed feelings or reactions toward pregnancy, relationship problems or issues, lifestyle changes, financial problems, lack of support, and many more. For women who may have problems on getting pregnant, infertility issues may also may them susceptible to depression.
Depression during postpartum
There is also what we call as postpartum blues or baby blues wherein new mothers become sad, irritable, or angry for no apparent reason soon after they gave birth. This is considered normal for a few days. However, if it did not subside after more than two weeks, it may fall under the postpartum depression category. This becomes serious and needs immediate treatment. It is believed to be related to various hormonal fluctuations that women experience. The mother experiencing postpartum depression may be observed to have anxiety, agitation, suicidal thoughts, low self-esteem, lack of care for the baby, and may even attempt to harm the baby.
Physical or sexual abuse, oral contraceptives with high content of progesterone, infertility treatments with gonadotropin stimulants, and stress may also put a woman at a higher risk for development of depression.
How to handle women with depression
Women need support especially on critical stages of their lives such as puberty, pregnancy, or menopause. Parents, husbands, friends or anyone close to them should understand. They should show them emotional support. Open communication is very important to address issues and conflicts as soon as possible to avoid stress on women. For pregnancy for example, women and their partners should prepare for this both emotionally and financially to avoid problems during childbirth. If symptoms of depression become constant and serious, one should promptly consult a psychologist for proper treatment.
Treatment intervention for women with depression
Treatment for depressed women may include psychotherapy as well as medical treatment with anti depressants. They may also be given serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRI such as Zoloft, Paxil, and Prozac especially for PMDD cases. This may improve their moods. This is usually taken consistently or 2 weeks prior to menstruation. Exercise and stress reduction or relaxation techniques can also help as well as dietary changes. Women at risk or those who may already have depression should decrease their intake of salt as well as fatty foods. They should also avoid alcohol and caffeine. It is recommended to add more complex carbohydrates to the diet. Supplements or foods rich in vitamin B6, vitamin E, magnesium, calcium, and trytophan are also good for women with this condition.