Women's Depression vs. Depression in Men
Approximately 12 million women in the United States experience clinical depression each year, and a full one in every eight women can expect to develop clinical depression during their lifetime. Women are substantially more prone to depression than men, but beyond that the causes of female depression and even the pattern of symptoms can be totally different due to the addition of reproductive hormones as well as the social pressures to the female response to stress. If you are feeling sad a large part of your life, guilty, tired, or have an overall feeling of being "down in the dumps," you could be experiencing depression. You may also be feeling a loss of interest or pleasure in activities you once enjoyed, feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness, suicidal thoughts, sleeping less, or more, appetite and weight changes, difficulty concentrating or a sense of total, mind-numbing fatigue.
Differences in Male Depression and Female Depression
The outward signs and symptoms of depression are fairly similar in both men and women, however women will experience certain symptoms much more often. Women are also much more susceptible to seasonal affective disorder, which is depression in the winter months due to lower levels of sunlight. Atypical depression symptoms are seen much more often in women, meaning that rather than sleeping less, eating less and losing weight, which are the "typical" symptoms, women can sleep excessively, eat more, especially carbohydrates, and gain weight. Women also tend to feel a much higher level of guilt associated with depression. Women are roughly twice as likely as men to suffer from depression regardless of race, ethnicity, or economic factors.
Women have premenstrual problems where hormonal fluctuations during their menstrual cycle can cause bloating, irritability, fatigue and emotional outburst. The hormones associated with pregnancy can also contribute to depression; add miscarriage, unwanted pregnancy or lengthy infertility problems and you can see why depression is much more common in women due in part to hormones. While many new mothers experience a mild form of postpartum depression known commonly as "baby blues", it generally subsides in a few weeks. Some women experience severe and lasting depression, however, and this is believed to be influenced at least in part by hormonal fluctuations. Perimenopause and menopause bring their own issues as reproductive hormones are rapidly fluctuating during this period of time. This puts women at an increased risk of depression, and those with past histories of depression are at an even higher risk.
Social and Cultural Issues
As women we are expected to play many roles such as mother, wife and working woman. The more roles we play, and the further we stretch ourselves, the more vulnerable we become to role strain which leads to stress and depression. Women who receive little to no help with housework or child care, and single mothers are particularly at risk-single mothers are three times more likely than married mothers to experience an episode of major depression. Even though we've "come a long way," our relative lack of power and status in our current society which leads to discrimination in the workplace, low socioeconomic status and underemployment, can lead to feelings of helplessness, and ultimately, depression. Sexual and physical abuse can play a role in depression in women as girls are much more likely to be sexually abused than boys. Higher rates of depression are found among rape victims, female victims of physical abuse and female victims of sexual harassment. Relationship dissatisfaction can also cause women to become victims of depression, as lack of intimacy and marital strife are significant contributors. Finally, poverty is much more common in women than in men, and is a severe and chronic stressor that can lead to depression.
Generally speaking, women suffering from depression will receive the same types of treatment as men, the main treatments being psychotherapy and antidepressant therapies. There are, however, some special treatment considerations for women; you should ensure you find a doctor who is well-aware of the differences and can treat your depression properly, enabling you to get better.