Depression in women: causes and effects
Depression is a common mood disorder characterized by sadness, hopelessness, helplessness and lack of interest in activities. This may also be accompanied by other physical symptoms, such as changes in eating and sleep patterns. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), depression affects about 350 million people worldwide. While this mental health condition affects people irrespective of age, gender or socioeconomic conditions, studies show that women are at a higher risk of being diagnosed with depression. The higher occurrence of depression in women may be due to several hormone-fluctuating stages in life, such as puberty, menopause and pregnancy, which affect their functioning.
Causes for depression in women
Depression is a multifaceted disorder, and there are several possible causes for depression. A combination of genetics, sociological and psychological factors and women’s unique life experiences may all be contributing factors.
Some of the common causes of depression in women are:
Studies show that women are predisposed to suffering from depression when there is a family history of depression.
- Hormonal changes:
During different stages of life, women undergo periods of hormonal fluctuations such as puberty, menstruation, pregnancy and menopause. These hormonal fluctuations lead to a change in mood and physical functioning, which can lead to depressive symptoms. For example, hormonal fluctuations that occur after giving birth can lead to postpartum depression in women.
- Life experiences:
Societal expectations that women have to live up to and the unique experiences that occur in a woman’s life influence how they perceive themselves and function. Lack of social support and traumatic life events such as dealing with loss, financial insecurity, or strained interpersonal relationships can lead to depression.
- Chronic medical conditions:
Heart issues, diabetes, chronic pain or cancer can cause stress and changes in physical functioning that can contribute to depression.
Depression can also be the side-effect of certain medications.
- Substance use:
The use of drugs and alcohol can increase the risk of depression in women.
Women struggling with depression can find solace in mental health apps, aiding them to restore their emotional balance and wellbeing.
Effects of depression on women
There are several changes that depression can bring about in a woman’s physical and emotional health and social functioning. Here are some ways in which depression affects women:
- Physical health:
Depression can manifest in physical symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, and changes in eating and sleeping patterns. Women diagnosed with depression may also have a higher risk of developing chronic health conditions such as heart disease.
- Emotional well-being:
Depression causes hopelessness and helplessness, making it difficult to function in everyday situations or engage in activities they once enjoyed. These emotions also make it difficult to concentrate or remember things.
- Social functioning:
Depression interferes with daily functioning as it may become difficult to maintain relationships or be productive at the workplace or school. Women may experience difficulty communicating, which affects their ability to socialise or sustain relationships. This may often result in feelings of isolation and loneliness.
- Reproductive health:
Women with depression may experience difficulties with their menstrual cycles and throughout pregnancy. Studies show that women who suffer from depression during pregnancy are more likely to have issues such as miscarriages and preterm labour.
It is important to address the symptoms of depression before they start to get worse. If you are not ready to see a counselor or therapist yet, consider looking into online resources. You can find a comprehensive list of the best mental health apps out there that include self-help tools and techniques to manage symptoms of depression as well as other mental health concerns.
While depression is a serious condition that can significantly impact a woman’s life and well-being, it is essential to remember that the condition is treatable and many women suffering from depression have been able to recover from it.
Several treatment options are available, including going to therapy, taking medication or a combination of the two. With the advancement in technology, there are a plethora of online digital tools and resources available on the market as well. Furthermore, making lifestyle changes such as regular exercise, a balanced diet and healthy sleep can also help in coping with the symptoms of depression. It is always advisable to seek out professional help to develop an effective treatment plan based on the circumstances.