According to the World Health Organization, women suffer from depression twice as often as men do. As a matter of fact, approximately 20 percent of women will experience depression at some point in their lives. Depression is a complex disorder that has many causes. Women face high levels of strain due to many biological and social issues that are exclusive to their gender, which may be the reason for higher rates of clinical depression in women.
Women: Depression Symptoms
Depression in women is more severe than a prolonged period of “the blues.” Symptoms of depression interfere with everyday life and don’t clear up without treatment. Depression in women presents itself with at least five of the following depression signs:
- Depressed feelings that last most of the day
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
- Lack of interest in normally pleasurable activities
- Sleeping problems, either sleeping too much or not enough
- Thoughts of suicide or death
- Trouble concentrating and making decisions
- Weight loss or gain (more than 5 percent of total body weight over the course of a month).
Women may be more prone to guilt and anxiety than men. In addition, sleep issues and/or eating disorders are also likely to develop during major episodes of depression in women.
Causes of Depression in Women
Many biological and social issues can cause depression signs in women. Some triggers that may cause symptoms of depression in women may include:
- Abuse: Women are far more likely than men to be victims of abuse. Rape, which is a form of sexual abuse with primarily female victims, often leads to a high risk of depression.
- Coping mechanisms: When men get stressed or angry, they tend to find distractions rather than dwell on the issue. Women, on the other hand, are far more likely to be introspective or talk about their problems with others. This can sometimes be counterproductive and cause women to focus on a problem for too long, leading to depression signs.
- Fertility and related issues: Premenstrual issues, pregnancy, infertility and menopause can all trigger symptoms of depression in women. Hormonal changes can cause irritability and unshakable sadness. Postpartum depression is a good example of this type of disorder. Although reproduction-related depression usually clears up on its own, it can linger for months or even years.
- Power and status issues: In our society, women still face an uphill battle when it comes to equality in the workplace. For some women, depression symptoms may arise due to a sense of despair and hopelessness when faced with discrimination.
- Role strain: It’s not easy being a supportive partner, daughter, mother and breadwinner all at the same time. Some working moms have trouble juggling their multiple roles and sink into depression as a result. Single mothers are especially likely to exhibit depression signs.
- Stress: Women produce more stress hormones than men, and large amounts of stress can lead to depression.
Healthy Place Staff. (2008). Depression in women. Retrieved April 5, 2010, from the Healthy Place website: http://www.healthyplace.com/depression/women/depression-in-women/menu-id-68/.
Help Guide Staff. (n.d.). Depression in women: Causes, symptoms and treatment. Retrieved April 5, 2010, from the Help Guide website: http://helpguide.org/mental/depression_women.htm.
Mayo Clinic Staff. (2010). Depression in women: Understanding the gender gap. Retrieved April 5, 2010, from the Mayo Clinic website: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/depression/MH00035.
National Institute of Mental Health Staff. (2010). Women and depression: Discovering hope. Retrieved April 5, 2010, from the National Institute of Mental Health website: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/women-and-depression-discovering-hope/index.shtml.
World Health Organization Staff. (2010). Gender and women’s mental health. Retrieved April 5, 2010, from the World Health Organization website: http://www.who.int/mental_health/prevention/genderwomen/en/.