While depression can affect anyone regardless of age, the likelihood of suffering from depression increases with age, life experience, and gender. Recent studies have found that in adults, women experience depression at twice the rate of men because of the hormone changes that occur as women age.
According to Mental Health America, one in eight women will experience clinical depression in their lifetime and more than half of women believe depression is a normal part of aging.
Even though women are more susceptible to depression, that doesn’t mean we should accept it as another part of getting older. There are steps you can take to effectively treat the hormonal causes of female depression and keep the symptoms at bay.
Estrogen and Depression
Ask any premenopausal female over the age of 12, and they will tell you that estrogen has a huge effect on their mood. At least once a month, estrogen can wreak havoc, tugging at us mentally and physically. After three to five days, we’re often left exhausted and sometimes confused.
“I’ve seen estrogen make princesses out of witches.” ― Marie Hoäg MBA
The connection between estrogen and our mood is what makes women more susceptible to depression. When estrogen levels are low (such as in menopause or perimenopause) our serotonin levels drop, causing mood swings and depression, according to Medical News Today. It is thought that estrogen promotes the production of serotonin, which explains why when there is a drop in estrogen levels, there is also a drop in serotonin levels.
Types of Depression
Due to estrogen’s effects on our mood, medical professionals have divided the different types of depression women experience based on where they are in life and what causes the change in estrogen levels. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, there are three types of depression that effect women regularly:
- Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) – a less common, more severe form of PMS, which results in disabling symptoms such as irritability, anger, depressed mood, sadness, suicidal thoughts, appetite changes, bloating, breast tenderness, and joint or muscle pain.
- Perinatal Depression- Perinatal depression is depression during or after (postpartum) pregnancy.
- Perinatal Depression- occurs during the years leading up to and through the transition into penopause.
With the natural hormone shifts that occur in women’s lives, it is easy to see why women are more susceptible to depression.
“I’m very available to depression. I can slip in and out of it quite easily,” – Adele
But what does it really feel like to be depressed?
Symptoms of Depression in Women
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, depression can take many forms, but for most women, symptoms of depression include:
- Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
- Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
- Decreased energy or fatigue
- Difficulty sleeping, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
- Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities
- Moving or talking more slowly
- Feeling restless or having trouble sitting still
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
- Appetite and/or weight changes
- Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts
- Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems without a clear physical cause and/or that do not ease even with treatment
If you have been experiencing any of these symptoms for longer than two weeks, it might be time to reach out to your doctor for help. Fortunately, there are a variety of very effective treatment options that can help you.
There are three main treatment options for those suffering from depression: medications, therapy, and self-help.
- Medications – prescribed by your doctor, these medications can help balance out your hormones and prevent depression symptoms from returning. There is some evidence to suggest that using an estrogen patch during the transition into menopause can help treat and prevent depression, according to Medical Express.
- Therapy – working with a trained psychologist can help you work through your feelings and learn how to manage them outside of medication. Typically, therapy is prescribed alongside medication for a well-rounded treatment.
- Self-help – Healthy eating, exercise, socializing, and education can help enhance the effects of other treatments and help you feel more like yourself.
Depression is a very serious mental illness that effects a large number of women every year. Always remember that you are not alone and that there are treatments available to help you get back to feeling like yourself. You don’t need to suffer through because you think it is a “normal part of aging.” If you are experiencing symptoms of depression, talk to your doctor today.
“I have never been remotely ashamed of having been depressed. Never. What’s to be ashamed of? I went through a really rough time and I am quite proud that I got out of that.” – JK Rowling