Are you feeling depressed? If so, you’re not alone. If it took about all your energy just to find this information online, don’t be hard on yourself. Help is right around the corner. This information can help you better understand depression in women including risk factors and natural and conventional treatments.
What is Depression?
Oftentimes, depression is attributed to a chemical imbalance but it’s a bit more complicated than that. The chemicals in your brain don’t just change. Extreme stress, medical illness, poor diet, and trauma can all contribute to the brain chemical changes that cause depression. Some women feel the effects of depression because this is what they’ve learned. They’ve been raised in or currently live in an environment where the mood is chronically pessimistic or despondent.
Signs and Symptoms of Depression
According to the National Mental Health Association, approximately 1 in every 8 women suffers from some form of depression. The symptoms they experience vary depending on the individual.
Some of the common signs and symptoms of depression in women are:
- Feelings of guilt
- Loss of interest in activities
- Sleeping more or less than usual
- Suicidal thoughts and/or preoccupation with death
- Appetite and weight changes
- Memory and concentration difficulties
- Depressed mood
- Low libido
- Body aches and pains
Women experiencing 5 or more of these signs and symptoms for a period of two weeks or more may be suffering from clinical depression.
Types of Depression
There is more than one type of depression. Do any of these symptoms sound familiar to you?
- Major Depression – Major depression, otherwise known as clinical depression, is characterized by a chronic, pervasive feeling of hopelessness and despair. This type of depression can run in families and often occurs after a traumatic event. With major depression, even ordinary tasks such as getting out of bed, getting dressed, and going to work can seem almost impossible. It’s like walking around with a lead weight strapped to your back.
- Psychotic Depression – Psychotic depression, otherwise known as major depression with psychotic features, can be quite frightening to the sufferer. When extreme stress elevates the stress hormone, cortisol, major depression can become psychotic. This means frightening visual and auditory hallucinations that mimic the symptoms of schizophrenia. Unlike schizophrenia, however, women with psychotic depression are usually aware these hallucinations aren’t real. Other symptoms of this type of depression include anxiety, physical immobility, agitation, hypochondria, and cognitive impairment.
- Atypical Depression – Atypical depression has symptoms similar to major depression but is somewhat shorter-lived. Women with atypical depression often experience extreme despondency followed by periods of true elation and joy. Not to be confused with manic depression, atypically depressed women believe outside events control their mood (new relationships, job success) but do not experience the extreme highs and lows of a bipolar individual.
- Dysthymia – Women with dysthymia often do not even notice they’re depressed. Their feelings of despondency, dissatisfaction, and fear are just a normal part of life they carry with them every day. Oftentimes, women with dysthymia will not seek treatment because they’re unaware of the ability feel any differently than they do now.
- Manic Depression – Manic depression, also called bipolar disorder, is a type of depression characterized by extreme highs and lows. Women with bipolar disorder suffer the same symptoms of major depression during their low periods but often experience feelings of extreme elation during their highs. This can lead to impulsive spending, promiscuous sex, extreme decisions such as quitting a job overnight, and inability to sleep or feeling rested on very little sleep.
Risk Factors for Depression
Risk factors for depression in women include pregnancy and childbirth, trauma, work and family stress, hormonal changes, history of childhood physical or sexual abuse, and seasonal affective disorder.
Treatments for Depression
If the effects of depression are interfering with your everyday life, you may have thought about getting into treatment. There are plenty of conventional and natural ways to treat depression. Let’s take a look at some of your options:
- Individual Counseling – Many depressed women prefer to seek the help of an individual counselor to get a better handle on what’s happening to them. Women naturally reach out to others to share their feelings while men with depression may be more reluctant to talk to a therapist.
- Group Therapy – If lack of health insurance makes individual counseling difficult, women may find solace in group therapy for depression. In this type of environment, you’ll be less likely to be prescribed medication and more likely to make new friends who completely understand what you’re going through. For women with depression, there’s strength in numbers.
- Prescription Medication – When severe depression puts a woman at risk for suicide, prescription medication may be used in conjunction with counseling to help her move into a more manageable place, where other treatments can be considered.
- Dietary Changes – If your diet is heavy in processed foods such as candy, cookies, donuts, and sodas, you may be at increased risk for depression. Eating a diet rich in organic vegetables, fruits, meat, poultry, fish, and nuts can help give your body the nutrients it’s been missing. This can help heal depression and other symptoms of mental illness by balancing natural vitamins and minerals within the body.
- Yoga – Yoga is a type of exercise designed to help you get back in touch with your body, improve your flexibility, and relax your mind. If you feel up to it, look into a yoga class at your local gym or college. It can be a way to exercise your body without overtaxing yourself with heavy cardio or weights.
- Supplements – Sometimes, you just aren’t able to eat the right diet. You’re busy with work, school, the kids, and this terrible feeling of sadness. Sometimes, vitamin deficiencies cause the symptoms of mental illness. Vitamin C, vitamin D, and magnesium are the three most common deficiencies that can contribute to the development of depression. Adding them to your diet can help ease these feelings and contribute to an overall sense of well-being. Before adding high doses of vitamin D, get your blood levels checked by your primary care doctor to avoid overdosing.
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Depression doesn’t happen overnight so it’s important to remember that it can’t be lifted overnight either. Depression in women is different than depression in men and symptoms may vary depending on what type of depression being experienced. Risk of depression may be greatly increased by a traumatic event, chronic stress, and hormonal changes. Whatever the reason for your depression, there’s light at the end of the tunnel. Talk with your doctor, therapist or trusted friend and take the next step from there.