Signs of depression in women: the opinion of a psychologist

  • Depression is almost twice as common in women, likely due to unique social and hormonal factors.
  • Many women don’t recognize the main signs of depression, which can make it difficult to get timely support.
  • Depression can improve with the right treatment, which can include therapy, medication, or both.

Dr. Carla Marie Manlyclinical psychologist in private practice, has been treating women with depression for 15 years.

According to Manly, one of the biggest misconceptions about depression is that it’s “a normal part of being a woman.” This notion may be rooted in the fact that depression commonly affects women.

About one in eight American women will develop clinical depression during their lifetime. Moreover, women are almost twice as likely as men experience symptoms of depression, which may be due to certain societal, hormonal and biological factors specific to women.

Here are six things Manly wants women with depression to know.

1. Key signs are not always obvious

Some signs of depression in women are easier to spot – such as changes in appetite or sleep patterns, irritability or feelings of hopelessness.

But Manly says you and your loved ones may overlook or not notice other key symptoms. These symptoms include:

  • Anhedonia: This symptom refers to an inability to derive pleasure from activities that once interested or uplifted you. “Since many women struggle with feeling exhausted and overworked, this important sign of depression is often mistaken for burnout or lack of sleep,” Manly says.
  • Decreased interest in sexual activity: A low libido can be linked to natural hormonal fluctuations, exhaustion or stress, but it can also occur as a sign of depression, according to Manly.
  • Drink too much: Increased substance use can be both a cause and a coping mechanism when it comes to depression, Manly says. Drinking in excess can provide a way to mask or numb unwanted emotions. Also, since society normalizes drinking alcohol while socializing or relaxing, you may not immediately recognize when your drinking habits have changed.
  • Insulation: Manly says extroverts and introverts with depression may avoid even minor social engagements and start seeking more solitary activities, like watching TV alone instead of attending your weekly movie night with friends. “While it’s normal and healthy to reduce activities when recovery time is needed, many women don’t realize that depression can manifest as a gradual or sudden change in desire to engage with others” , she says.
  • Overspending: A 2015 study found making shopping choices can help alleviate sadness by restoring a sense of personal control over your surroundings. According to Manly, some women with depression may engage in compulsive shopping in an effort to improve their mood.

2. It won’t necessarily completely derail your life

“A lot of people assume that depressed women languish in bed or are largely unproductive,” Manly says.

According to Manly, many women suffer from what’s called “high-level depression,” which can be harder to recognize. You may suffer from depression, although you may still perform well at your job, take care of your children, or smile at social events.

“A lot of women who live with depression intentionally put on a cheerful mask and stay really busy,” Manly says.

3. Depression triggers may be related to your situation

Although depression doesn’t always have a specific cause, a wide range of issues — physical, emotional, and social or societal — can trigger depression in women, according to Manly.

For example, women are more likely to live in povertywhich can cause feelings of uncertainty, lack of control, and low self-esteem that contribute to depression.

Other common triggers of depression in women include:

4. Depression can set in at certain stages of life

Certain types of depression can occur at different stages of your life, often in response to specific physical changes.

Premenstrual dysphoric disorder

It’s common to feel sadness and even crying spells in the week or two before your period as part of premenstrual syndrome (PMS).

But between 5% and 10% of menstruating people experience a more severe form known as premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD)which can cause more severe depressed mood, feelings of hopelessness, and suicidal thoughts.

Prenatal depression

The uncomfortable body changes, hormonal shifts, and intense planning that come with pregnancy can be overwhelming for expectant mothers, especially if you add in relationship issues, job changes, lack of social support, or other stressors. of life.

Prenatal depression tends to affect women just before having a childbut it can set in at any time during pregnancy and it can be difficult to take care of yourself or others.

Self-care is especially important during pregnancy. Finding a support network for expectant parents and asking your doctor for treatment recommendations can help you manage and cope with symptoms of prenatal depression.

Postpartum depression

Around one in seven women developing postpartum depression (PPD), which tends to last longer than prenatal depression and involves more severe symptoms, ranging from guilt or low self-esteem about your abilities to suicidal thoughts.

PDD often goes unnoticed because many women are unwilling to disclose their depression to family members due to stigma, as well as a general fear of being abandoned or losing support. But without treatment, the symptoms can get worse and affect your bond with your baby.

Risk factors for PPD include:

  • Personal or family history of mood and anxiety disorders
  • Infant or childbirth complications
  • Lack of social support

Perimenopausal depression

Perimenopause, the transition to menopause, is when hormone levels tend to fluctuate the most. Many perimenopausal women experience rapid mood swings, depression, and anxiety.

You are more likely to have perimenopausal depression if you go through menopause at a younger ageor if your ovaries are surgically removed.

5. Changing the Habits That Fuel Depression Can Be Difficult

Manly says one of the biggest challenges in helping women with depression is changing the habits that perpetuate their depression. Indeed, depression can negatively affect your energy and motivation.

“Although a woman with depression really wants to heal, she often finds it incredibly difficult to find the energy and motivation to adopt mood-boosting habits,” Manly says. “She may come to understand precisely what would help her deal with her depression – such as leaving a toxic workplace or even getting more exercise – but such tasks often feel overwhelming.”

Anxiety or fear can also play a role in blocking women. For example, Manly says a woman may realize that her relationship with a difficult or abusive partner is causing her depression, but is reluctant to leave the relationship for fear of change or loneliness.

Other the reasons to stay in an abusive relationship can include financial insecurity, dependence on a partner due to a physical disability, and concerns about maintaining family unity – factors that can also play a role in depression.

6. Depression is highly treatable

Manly’s best advice for women who have or think they have depression is to seek help from a licensed therapist.

She also suggests finding a local depression support group for women. Support groups not only provide a safe space to share your emotional experiences, but they can also serve as an important reminder that you are not alone.

But when it comes to antidepressants, Manly advises managing your expectations: These drugs can ease depression, but they probably won’t eradicate it entirely. They can also take weeks to start working.

“If the depression feels like a 100-pound weight, taking an antidepressant can make the weight feel more like a 60-pound weight,” Manly says.

You can find a therapist who treats depression using one of the following searchable databases:

Insider’s Takeaways

Depression is more common in women, due to both biological factors and societal issues.

Big events like pregnancy, divorce, menopause, or the death of a loved one can all trigger depression, but this mental health condition can also stem from other daily life stressors or occur without a trigger. specific.

Severity and symptoms can vary widely from person to person, and some signs — like drinking a little more alcohol, spending more money, or seeking more alone time — can be easy to miss.

“Anyway, remember that you’re not broken if you’re struggling with depression,” Manly says. “Many people have struggled with the dark cloud and have successfully overcome or managed it. So don’t give up because depression is a mental health issue that can be cured.”

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