Depression affects both men and women but why are we women twice as likely as men to experience depression ?
It is very unfortunate if you are suffering from depression or you know someone who is. Depression is not occasional bouts of feeling sad. When our family pet bunny Snowflake passed on April 24th last year, I was guilty and sad because I wasn't there during her last moments. Till today we all miss her but I got over it after some time. That is not depression but temporary feelings of grief.
When grief and other sad feelings start affecting our daily lives and causes pain for us and for the people around us, then it would be called depression. Being treated for depression is common and there is less stigma attached to it now than many generations ago.
Let's look at some of the reasons and remedies to overcome this deep feeling of blue.
Signs of Depression
All women do not all have the same signs of depressive illness but these are the general ones :
1) Constantly feeling sad, pessimistic or hopeless
2) Feeling irritable, restless or anxious
3) Feeling empty inside
4) Feeling guilty, worthless or helpless
5) Loss of interest in activities which were once enjoyable incl sex
6) Decreased energy and feeling fatigued
7) Unable to concentrate, make decisions or remembering details
8) Insomnia, waking up in the night or excessive sleeping
9) Overeating or loss of appetite
10) Excessive Alcohol Consumption
11) Persistent aches, headaches and pain that would not go away with medication and other treatment.
12) Thoughts of suicide or suicide attempts
Reasons Why A Woman May Get Depressed
1) Family History - If a woman has a family history of depression, she may be more at risk of developing this illness. But it can also occur in families where there had been no history of it.
2) Brain Chemistry - this happens to be a significant factor in depression. MRIs have shown that people with depression have a brain that looks different than those who don't. Those parts of the brain that regulate our moods, sleep, appetite, thinking and behavior does not appear to be functioning normally. Furthermore the neurotransmitters - chemicals that brain cells use to communicate - appear to be imbalanced.
3) PMDD - Some women suffer from PMDD - Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder - which makes them experience depression, anxiety, irritability and mood swings the week before their period. We usually refer to this as PMS but apparently it can cause severe depression in some women as they are more sensitive to these menstruation related hormone changes.
4) Postpartum Depression - women are particularly vulnerable to depression after giving birth, when hormonal, physical changes and the new responsibility of caring for a newborn can be overwhelming. This depressive period can go on for several months and require immediate treatment and emotional support.
5) Menopause - During the period between premenopause and menopause, hormonal changes increase in women. Some women may transition without any mood swings, others experience an increased risk of depression. The good news is that it becomes less common for women during the post menopause period.
6) Stress - Major life events such as trauma, loss of a loved one, a difficult relationship or any stressful situation often occur before a depressive period. Researchers from the University of Michigan have found out that women respond differently to and prolong their feelings of stress more than men thus increasing their risk for depression.
7) Other Illness - Sometimes, a different health issue may set off a depressive disorder. These other coexisting illness must be diagnosed and treated even though the relationship between depression and other illness differs for every person and situation.
Where to Go for Help?
I have experienced a bout of depression in the last 2 years. I wasn't clinically diagnosed and didn't take any medications but I did visit a psychologist to talk things out and to get an expert opinion on my problems. Even though I am mostly out of it, thanks to the gift of time and my hobbies (including this blog), it was a rather painful period for me....
The very first stop to go for help would be your family doctor who can then refer you to right specialist. Others who can help are :
Psychiatrists, Psychologist, Social workers or other Mental Health Counselors
Health Maintenance Organizations
Community Mental Health Centers
Hospital Psychiatry Departments and Outpatient Clinics
Mental Health Programs at Universities or Medical Schools
State Hospital Outpatient Clinics
Family Services, Social Agencies or Clergy
Peer Support Groups
Private Clinics and Facilities
Employee Assistance Programs
Other Ways to Help Yourself
When you are depressed and when you would have just began treatment, you would feel exhausted, helpless and hopeless. It is extremely important to help yourself in any way.
Engage in mild activity or exercise. A walk outside amidst the beautiful surroundings will definitely cheer you up and the endorphins released after the exercise will surely make you happy.
Go for a movie, ballgame or any other activity you use to enjoy.
Participate in religion, social or other activities.
Set realistic goals for yourself. Do not expect to 'snap' out of depression immediately but gradually.
Postpone important decisions like marriage or changing jobs until you feel better. If need be, discuss issues with people you know and who may have an objective view of the situation.
Spend more time with other people and do confide in a trusted friend. Do not isolate yourself and let others help you.
Be confident that positive thinking will replace negative thinking as you respond to treatment.
Remember that depression affects 20 million people in America alone every year and is a seriousness illness which could compromise day to day functions. Many people don't seek treatment because they think it can't be treated. Seek help immediately if you feel you may be suffering from depression.
- adapted from The National Institute of Mental Health