Women and Depression

Reviewed May 15, 2017

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Summary

Factors that influence depression include:

  • Stress
  • Menopause
  • Childbirth

Depression happens more often in women than in men. Reasons for this are due to the differences in women’s bodies, hormones, and their reactions to stress.

Family history

A family history of depression can add to a person’s chances of getting depression. But this is not a certainty in all families. Depression can also happen in women who have no family history of it. Research suggests that a mixture of family traits, where you live, and life events can cause it.

Chemicals and hormones

Brain chemicals play a big role in depression. The parts of the brain in charge of regulating mood, thinking, sleep, hunger, and actions work differently for women who are depressed. The substances that brain cells use to work with others are out of balance.

Studies have shown that hormones change the brain chemicals that control emotions and mood. Certain times during a woman's life are of note. They include puberty, the time before periods, before, during, and just after having a baby, and right before and during the change of life.

Postpartum depression (PPD)

Having the “baby blues” is widely found in many new mothers. The baby blues is a brief period of mild mood changes. This is not the same as postpartum depression, or PPD. PPD is much more serious. It calls for active care and support for the new mother.

Women are vulnerable to getting PPD after giving birth because of the hormonal and physical changes that happen in a woman's body after the baby is born. The new and demanding job of caring for a new baby can be hard. This, too, can lead to feelings of sadness. For a few months after giving birth, mothers have a higher chance of getting mental issues, including depression.

Many women who get PPD have had depression in the past. Some women get it while pregnant, but it often goes undetected. It is estimated that 10 percent to 15 percent of women get it after giving birth.

Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD)

Some women may also have a very bad form of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) called premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). PMDD is linked to the hormonal changes that typically happen near ovulation and before a woman’s period starts. Signs include feelings of sadness, nervousness, crankiness, and mood swings the week before the start of a period. They are so bad that they get in the way of daily routines.

Women who have debilitating PMDD do not necessarily have unusual hormone shifts. They have many responses to these changes. They may also have a history of other mood disorders and differences in brain chemistry that cause them to be more likely to get menstruation-linked hormone changes.

Perimenopause

Perimenopause can also play a role in getting depression. It can add to stress levels and make hormonal imbalances that change mood and the way the mind works. Many women feel disoriented and confused by what is going on with them. Family history may also play a role.

Signs of later-stage perimenopause can include depression, sleep disruption, and “hot flashes.” Prior harmful events like problems with relationships, work, or social life can add to it. Also, former PPD or sexual abuse and a family history have been found to make depression worse in these women.

Women who have not had children and women who have taken antidepressants have a greater chance of getting depression during this time. Women who have had major depression or relatively mild signs during the menopausal transition tend to feel better with age.

The current thinking is that depressive symptoms during perimenopause are not just about shifting hormone levels. A number of reasons, including past emotional pain, may add to a woman’s vulnerability to depression during these years.

For some women, treating depression during this time may call for not only drugs but also talk therapy. It can help deal with current problems rooted in the past.

Menopause

The transition to the change of life can have many challenges. These can be in the body and relationships.

Hormonal changes increase during the switch from premenopause to menopause. Some women may transition into the change of life without any problems with mood. Others may have a higher chance of getting depression, no matter if they have had it in the past. It seems that depression becomes less widely found after menopause.

Stress

Many women face the added stresses of work and home duties. Or they may be caring for children and aging parents. Trauma, the loss of a loved one, relationships, and financial stress can also add to their chances of getting depression.

It is still not clear, though, why some women who are faced with very large challenges get depression, while others with like challenges do not. Studies have found that women react differently than men to such events, making them more likely to get depressed. It seems that women may react in such a way that draws out their feelings of stress more so than men. That may explain a higher chance of getting depression.

Getting help

Proper diagnosis of depression that leads to proper care can make a good change in a woman’s life. There are many proven therapies that can help.  

Counseling may be the best choice for mild to moderate depression. But this may not be enough. A mixture of medications prescribed by a psychiatrist combined with counseling may be most helpful. This can also lower the chances of the depression coming back.

If you think you have depression, let your doctor know. If you are pregnant, ask for an evaluation both during pregnancy and after giving birth. Depression in pregnancy can have negative effects on the developing child. 

Resources

Postpartum Support International
(800) 944-4PPD (4773)
www.postpartum.net

Self-assessment

Wakefield Self-report
The Wakefield Self-Report Questionnaire gauges the severity of depression signs. The test gives point values to answers based on a numerical algorithm.
http://counsellingresource.com/lib/quizzes/depression-testing/wakefield/

By Chris E. Stout, PsyD, Clinical Professor, Department of Psychiatry, College of Medicine, University of Illinois at Chicago
Source: Hankin BL, Abramson LY. Development of gender differences in depression: an elaborated cognitive vulnerability-transactional stress theory. Psychological Bulletin. 2001 Nov; 127(6): 773-796. Calvete E, Cardenoso O. Gender differences in cognitive vulnerability to depression and behavior problems in adolescents. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology. 2005 Apr; 33(2): 179-192. Cyranowski J, Frank E, Young E, Shear K. Adolescent onset of the gender difference in lifetime rates of major depression. Archives of General Psychiatry. 2000 Jan; 57(1): 21-27. National Institute of Mental Health; Trivedi MH, Fava M, Wisniewski SR, Thase ME, Quitkin F, Warden D, Ritz L, Nierenberg AA, Lebowitz BD, Biggs MM, Luther JF, Shores-Wilson K, Rush JA. Medication augmentation after the failure of SSRIs for depression. New England Journal of Medicine. 2006 Mar 23; 354(12): 1243-1252. Marcus SM, Flynn HA, Blow F, Barry K. A screening study of antidepressant treatments and mood symptoms in pregnancy. Archives of Women's Mental Health. 2005 May; 8(1): 25-27. Seattle Midlife Women’s Health Study, Menopause, March/April 2008.
Reviewed by Gary R. Proctor, MD, Associate Chief Medical Officer, Beacon Health Options

Summary

Factors that influence depression include:

  • Stress
  • Menopause
  • Childbirth

Depression happens more often in women than in men. Reasons for this are due to the differences in women’s bodies, hormones, and their reactions to stress.

Family history

A family history of depression can add to a person’s chances of getting depression. But this is not a certainty in all families. Depression can also happen in women who have no family history of it. Research suggests that a mixture of family traits, where you live, and life events can cause it.

Chemicals and hormones

Brain chemicals play a big role in depression. The parts of the brain in charge of regulating mood, thinking, sleep, hunger, and actions work differently for women who are depressed. The substances that brain cells use to work with others are out of balance.

Studies have shown that hormones change the brain chemicals that control emotions and mood. Certain times during a woman's life are of note. They include puberty, the time before periods, before, during, and just after having a baby, and right before and during the change of life.

Postpartum depression (PPD)

Having the “baby blues” is widely found in many new mothers. The baby blues is a brief period of mild mood changes. This is not the same as postpartum depression, or PPD. PPD is much more serious. It calls for active care and support for the new mother.

Women are vulnerable to getting PPD after giving birth because of the hormonal and physical changes that happen in a woman's body after the baby is born. The new and demanding job of caring for a new baby can be hard. This, too, can lead to feelings of sadness. For a few months after giving birth, mothers have a higher chance of getting mental issues, including depression.

Many women who get PPD have had depression in the past. Some women get it while pregnant, but it often goes undetected. It is estimated that 10 percent to 15 percent of women get it after giving birth.

Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD)

Some women may also have a very bad form of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) called premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). PMDD is linked to the hormonal changes that typically happen near ovulation and before a woman’s period starts. Signs include feelings of sadness, nervousness, crankiness, and mood swings the week before the start of a period. They are so bad that they get in the way of daily routines.

Women who have debilitating PMDD do not necessarily have unusual hormone shifts. They have many responses to these changes. They may also have a history of other mood disorders and differences in brain chemistry that cause them to be more likely to get menstruation-linked hormone changes.

Perimenopause

Perimenopause can also play a role in getting depression. It can add to stress levels and make hormonal imbalances that change mood and the way the mind works. Many women feel disoriented and confused by what is going on with them. Family history may also play a role.

Signs of later-stage perimenopause can include depression, sleep disruption, and “hot flashes.” Prior harmful events like problems with relationships, work, or social life can add to it. Also, former PPD or sexual abuse and a family history have been found to make depression worse in these women.

Women who have not had children and women who have taken antidepressants have a greater chance of getting depression during this time. Women who have had major depression or relatively mild signs during the menopausal transition tend to feel better with age.

The current thinking is that depressive symptoms during perimenopause are not just about shifting hormone levels. A number of reasons, including past emotional pain, may add to a woman’s vulnerability to depression during these years.

For some women, treating depression during this time may call for not only drugs but also talk therapy. It can help deal with current problems rooted in the past.

Menopause

The transition to the change of life can have many challenges. These can be in the body and relationships.

Hormonal changes increase during the switch from premenopause to menopause. Some women may transition into the change of life without any problems with mood. Others may have a higher chance of getting depression, no matter if they have had it in the past. It seems that depression becomes less widely found after menopause.

Stress

Many women face the added stresses of work and home duties. Or they may be caring for children and aging parents. Trauma, the loss of a loved one, relationships, and financial stress can also add to their chances of getting depression.

It is still not clear, though, why some women who are faced with very large challenges get depression, while others with like challenges do not. Studies have found that women react differently than men to such events, making them more likely to get depressed. It seems that women may react in such a way that draws out their feelings of stress more so than men. That may explain a higher chance of getting depression.

Getting help

Proper diagnosis of depression that leads to proper care can make a good change in a woman’s life. There are many proven therapies that can help.  

Counseling may be the best choice for mild to moderate depression. But this may not be enough. A mixture of medications prescribed by a psychiatrist combined with counseling may be most helpful. This can also lower the chances of the depression coming back.

If you think you have depression, let your doctor know. If you are pregnant, ask for an evaluation both during pregnancy and after giving birth. Depression in pregnancy can have negative effects on the developing child. 

Resources

Postpartum Support International
(800) 944-4PPD (4773)
www.postpartum.net

Self-assessment

Wakefield Self-report
The Wakefield Self-Report Questionnaire gauges the severity of depression signs. The test gives point values to answers based on a numerical algorithm.
http://counsellingresource.com/lib/quizzes/depression-testing/wakefield/

By Chris E. Stout, PsyD, Clinical Professor, Department of Psychiatry, College of Medicine, University of Illinois at Chicago
Source: Hankin BL, Abramson LY. Development of gender differences in depression: an elaborated cognitive vulnerability-transactional stress theory. Psychological Bulletin. 2001 Nov; 127(6): 773-796. Calvete E, Cardenoso O. Gender differences in cognitive vulnerability to depression and behavior problems in adolescents. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology. 2005 Apr; 33(2): 179-192. Cyranowski J, Frank E, Young E, Shear K. Adolescent onset of the gender difference in lifetime rates of major depression. Archives of General Psychiatry. 2000 Jan; 57(1): 21-27. National Institute of Mental Health; Trivedi MH, Fava M, Wisniewski SR, Thase ME, Quitkin F, Warden D, Ritz L, Nierenberg AA, Lebowitz BD, Biggs MM, Luther JF, Shores-Wilson K, Rush JA. Medication augmentation after the failure of SSRIs for depression. New England Journal of Medicine. 2006 Mar 23; 354(12): 1243-1252. Marcus SM, Flynn HA, Blow F, Barry K. A screening study of antidepressant treatments and mood symptoms in pregnancy. Archives of Women's Mental Health. 2005 May; 8(1): 25-27. Seattle Midlife Women’s Health Study, Menopause, March/April 2008.
Reviewed by Gary R. Proctor, MD, Associate Chief Medical Officer, Beacon Health Options

Summary

Factors that influence depression include:

  • Stress
  • Menopause
  • Childbirth

Depression happens more often in women than in men. Reasons for this are due to the differences in women’s bodies, hormones, and their reactions to stress.

Family history

A family history of depression can add to a person’s chances of getting depression. But this is not a certainty in all families. Depression can also happen in women who have no family history of it. Research suggests that a mixture of family traits, where you live, and life events can cause it.

Chemicals and hormones

Brain chemicals play a big role in depression. The parts of the brain in charge of regulating mood, thinking, sleep, hunger, and actions work differently for women who are depressed. The substances that brain cells use to work with others are out of balance.

Studies have shown that hormones change the brain chemicals that control emotions and mood. Certain times during a woman's life are of note. They include puberty, the time before periods, before, during, and just after having a baby, and right before and during the change of life.

Postpartum depression (PPD)

Having the “baby blues” is widely found in many new mothers. The baby blues is a brief period of mild mood changes. This is not the same as postpartum depression, or PPD. PPD is much more serious. It calls for active care and support for the new mother.

Women are vulnerable to getting PPD after giving birth because of the hormonal and physical changes that happen in a woman's body after the baby is born. The new and demanding job of caring for a new baby can be hard. This, too, can lead to feelings of sadness. For a few months after giving birth, mothers have a higher chance of getting mental issues, including depression.

Many women who get PPD have had depression in the past. Some women get it while pregnant, but it often goes undetected. It is estimated that 10 percent to 15 percent of women get it after giving birth.

Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD)

Some women may also have a very bad form of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) called premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). PMDD is linked to the hormonal changes that typically happen near ovulation and before a woman’s period starts. Signs include feelings of sadness, nervousness, crankiness, and mood swings the week before the start of a period. They are so bad that they get in the way of daily routines.

Women who have debilitating PMDD do not necessarily have unusual hormone shifts. They have many responses to these changes. They may also have a history of other mood disorders and differences in brain chemistry that cause them to be more likely to get menstruation-linked hormone changes.

Perimenopause

Perimenopause can also play a role in getting depression. It can add to stress levels and make hormonal imbalances that change mood and the way the mind works. Many women feel disoriented and confused by what is going on with them. Family history may also play a role.

Signs of later-stage perimenopause can include depression, sleep disruption, and “hot flashes.” Prior harmful events like problems with relationships, work, or social life can add to it. Also, former PPD or sexual abuse and a family history have been found to make depression worse in these women.

Women who have not had children and women who have taken antidepressants have a greater chance of getting depression during this time. Women who have had major depression or relatively mild signs during the menopausal transition tend to feel better with age.

The current thinking is that depressive symptoms during perimenopause are not just about shifting hormone levels. A number of reasons, including past emotional pain, may add to a woman’s vulnerability to depression during these years.

For some women, treating depression during this time may call for not only drugs but also talk therapy. It can help deal with current problems rooted in the past.

Menopause

The transition to the change of life can have many challenges. These can be in the body and relationships.

Hormonal changes increase during the switch from premenopause to menopause. Some women may transition into the change of life without any problems with mood. Others may have a higher chance of getting depression, no matter if they have had it in the past. It seems that depression becomes less widely found after menopause.

Stress

Many women face the added stresses of work and home duties. Or they may be caring for children and aging parents. Trauma, the loss of a loved one, relationships, and financial stress can also add to their chances of getting depression.

It is still not clear, though, why some women who are faced with very large challenges get depression, while others with like challenges do not. Studies have found that women react differently than men to such events, making them more likely to get depressed. It seems that women may react in such a way that draws out their feelings of stress more so than men. That may explain a higher chance of getting depression.

Getting help

Proper diagnosis of depression that leads to proper care can make a good change in a woman’s life. There are many proven therapies that can help.  

Counseling may be the best choice for mild to moderate depression. But this may not be enough. A mixture of medications prescribed by a psychiatrist combined with counseling may be most helpful. This can also lower the chances of the depression coming back.

If you think you have depression, let your doctor know. If you are pregnant, ask for an evaluation both during pregnancy and after giving birth. Depression in pregnancy can have negative effects on the developing child. 

Resources

Postpartum Support International
(800) 944-4PPD (4773)
www.postpartum.net

Self-assessment

Wakefield Self-report
The Wakefield Self-Report Questionnaire gauges the severity of depression signs. The test gives point values to answers based on a numerical algorithm.
http://counsellingresource.com/lib/quizzes/depression-testing/wakefield/

By Chris E. Stout, PsyD, Clinical Professor, Department of Psychiatry, College of Medicine, University of Illinois at Chicago
Source: Hankin BL, Abramson LY. Development of gender differences in depression: an elaborated cognitive vulnerability-transactional stress theory. Psychological Bulletin. 2001 Nov; 127(6): 773-796. Calvete E, Cardenoso O. Gender differences in cognitive vulnerability to depression and behavior problems in adolescents. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology. 2005 Apr; 33(2): 179-192. Cyranowski J, Frank E, Young E, Shear K. Adolescent onset of the gender difference in lifetime rates of major depression. Archives of General Psychiatry. 2000 Jan; 57(1): 21-27. National Institute of Mental Health; Trivedi MH, Fava M, Wisniewski SR, Thase ME, Quitkin F, Warden D, Ritz L, Nierenberg AA, Lebowitz BD, Biggs MM, Luther JF, Shores-Wilson K, Rush JA. Medication augmentation after the failure of SSRIs for depression. New England Journal of Medicine. 2006 Mar 23; 354(12): 1243-1252. Marcus SM, Flynn HA, Blow F, Barry K. A screening study of antidepressant treatments and mood symptoms in pregnancy. Archives of Women's Mental Health. 2005 May; 8(1): 25-27. Seattle Midlife Women’s Health Study, Menopause, March/April 2008.
Reviewed by Gary R. Proctor, MD, Associate Chief Medical Officer, Beacon Health Options

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