Women’s Health: Depression

One-fourth of women have a major bout with depression sometime during their life. They may not even know it as depression, but seek help for other ailments such as insomnia or extreme fatigue.

Depression is a condition marked by sadness, hopelessness, pessimism and a loss of interest in life. It can strike at any age and is common to all racial and ethnic groups. In general, depression is noted twice as often in women than in men. There may be many reasons for this:

  • Hormonal changes women undergo:

    • Premenstrually.
    • During menopause.
    • During and especially following childbirth or when a woman stops breast-feeding.
    • When taking medicines that contain hormones such as the pill.
    • With health conditions that affect a woman’s hormones such as some ovarian cysts, endometriosis, etc.

  • Women tend to express their feelings more openly than men which makes it more likely they will seek treatment for depression.
  • In both men and women, depression can result from:
  • Brain chemical abnormalities.
  • The death or loss of a loved one.
  • Life changes such as a divorce, job loss or moving to another location.
  • Financial problems.
  • Taking certain medicines such as some for high blood pressure.
  • Alcohol or drug abuse.
  • Major nutrient deficiencies.
  • Illnesses (acute or chronic) – the depression can either be a symptom or a consequence of the illness or both.

    • Examples include lupus and multiple sclerosis which are more common in women than in men.
    • Lack of natural, unfiltered sunlight between late fall and spring, known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

Whatever the cause, depression can be treated. Treatment can include medication, psychotherapy and other things that are specific to the cause of the depression. For example, if a certain pill used for birth control results in depression, a different pill or another birth control method can be tried. The exposure to bright lights similar to sunlight can treat depression caused by SAD.

If you suffer from depression, see your doctor. Keep track of when and how often you feel depressed and any other physical and/or emotional symptoms you have. Report these to your doctor. He or she can determine the correct diagnosis.

Question to ask

Do you have recurrent thoughts of suicide or death? Have you attempted suicide or are you planning ways to commit suicide?
Yes: Seek Care

Has the depression come after taking over-the-counter or prescription Yes: See Doctor

    Have you had markedly diminished interest or pleasure in almost all activities most of the day, nearly every day for at least two weeks or have you been in a depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day, and had any four of the following for at least two weeks?
  • Feeling slowed down or restless and unable to sit still.
  • Feeling worthless or guilty.
  • Changes in appetite or weight loss or gain.
  • Thoughts of death or suicide.
  • Problems concentrating, thinking, remembering or making decisions.
  • Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much.
  • Loss of energy or feeling tired all of the time.
  • Headaches.
  • Other aches and pains.
  • Digestive problems.
  • Sexual problems.
  • Feeling pessimistic or hopeless.
  • Being anxious or worried.
Yes:See Doctor

Is the depression associated with dark, cloudy weather or winter months and does it lift when spring comes? Yes: Call Doctor

Do you only get depressed between ovulation and when you begin your menstrual Yes: Call Doctor

Self-Care Procedures

    To overcome mild, hard-to-explain depression, try these approaches:

  • Get some physical exercise every day. Aerobic exercise such as walking, jogging, biking, swimming, etc., is especially helpful.
  • Avoid drugs and alcohol. Drinking too much alcohol and the use of drugs can cause or worsen depression.
  • Eat a well balanced diet. Don’t skip meals or binge on junk food. Limit caffeine and refined sugar in your diet.
  • Ask your doctor about vitamin and mineral supplements, which ones and how much of each one you should take.
  • Do something that will make you relax. Listen to soft music, read a good book, take a warm bath or shower or do relaxation exercises.
  • Avoid being alone. Talk to a friend, relative, co-worker or anyone who will allow you to vent the tensions and frustrations that you are experiencing.
  • Associate with positive, not negative people. They’ll lift your morale.
  • Substitute a positive thought for every negative thought that pops into your head.
  • To focus your attention away from yourself, do something to help someone else.
  • Do something that allows you to express yourself. Examples are writing, painting, etc.
  • Do something different. Walk or drive to some place new or try a new restaurant.
  • Treat yourself once in awhile with something that you want such as flowers, seeing a play, a new outfit, etc.

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Written by American Institute for Preventive Medicine

Explore Wellness in 2021