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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Questions and Answers About Women and Depression

1. What are the biological factors behind depression for women?

There are many biological factors behind depression for women. According to “Depression” (2008), “Because this depression gender gap coincides with puberty and disappears after menopause, some researchers say that hormonal factors increase a woman's risk of developing depression.” Obviously, hormones have a huge factor in the biological aspect of why women are more prone to depression. Premenstrual syndromes are also another biological factor that women have to face. Women experience hormone fluctuations before their menstrual cycle, and a select few suffer from Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder, a more severe form of PMS. Researchers believe that recurring changes in estrogen, progesterone and other hormones have the ability to disturb the function of brain chemicals such as serotonin. Serotonin is a chemical that affects the mood. Pregnancy is also a factor when one reviews the biological factors that are behind the depression rate for women. Again, drastic hormone changes may be responsible for the high rate of depression that occurs during pregnancy. According to The Mayo Clinic (2008), about 50% of new mothers suffer from feelings of sadness after their baby’s birth. Sometimes, it can develop into postpartum depression. This is yet another biological factor that may contribute to the depression of women. This is also attributed to major hormone fluctuations. Lastly perimenopause and menopause can be the culprit of depression among women. Hormone fluctuations during this crucial time are also a factor that contributes to depression among women. Another factor is the insomnia that may accompany menopause, which can definitely affect a woman’s mood in a negative way.

2. How do premenstrual factors play a role in depression?

Hormones fluctuate before a woman’s menstrual cycle. Women experience fluctuations in the hormones estrogen, progesterone and other hormones. These hormones have been tied to the functioning of certain chemicals, chemicals like serotonin. Serotonin has been proven to play a factor in the way one thinks and acts; directly affecting a woman’s mood. Women have to put up with the symptoms of PMS monthly. Symptoms can include abdominal bloating, breast tenderness, headache, anxiety, irritability and a blue mood (The Mayo Clinic, 2008). Some forms of PMS can even be so horrible that they affect daily functioning; this disorder is called Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder. On top of hormone fluctuations and sometimes severe PMS symptoms, premenstrual factors can be a substantial catalyst for the mood of a woman.

3. What is postpartum depression?

Feelings of sadness after a new baby’s birth affect one-half of all new mothers (The Mayo Clinic, 2008). Postpartum depression is a real, serious condition that requires immediate medical attention and treatment. When the feelings of sadness after the baby’s birth do not go away, this is when postpartum depression can develop. Postpartum depression is associated with major hormone fluctuations. Symptoms are very bothersome and sometimes dangerous. These symptoms may include: an inability to care for your baby, thoughts of harming your baby, anxiety, low self-esteem, agitation, and thoughts of suicide.

4. How does perimenopause and menopause play a role in depression and women?

During perimenopause, a woman once again experiences hormone fluctuations. At this time, the hormone estrogen drastically fluctuates. During menopause, women may experience bothersome symptoms such as insomnia that may affect their mood. Finally, having a hysterectomy (removal of the ovaries) causes an abrupt onset of menopause. This can result in more severe symptoms, including mood changes and sometimes depression (The Mayo Clinic, 2008)

5. How do social and cultural factors play a negative and/or positive role on a woman's depression?

Unequal power and treatment, work overload, and more risk of abuse put women in a position to be more at risk for developing depression than men. Women are still subject to sexism and discrimination based on their gender. Women still receive unequal pay and unequal power. According to The Mayo Clinic (2008), “Single women with children have one of the highest poverty rates in the United States.” Women are more likely to take on the role of caretaker and still at the same time have a career. This can put added stress upon a woman, making her more prone to developing depression. Women are also more at risk of being sexually abused in their lifetime, making them more at risk for developing depression. According to Crandall (2006), Women often juggle work and childcare more often than men. Also, women have to think of both the risks and benefits of treating depression while they are pregnant or nursing. Women are more at risk for being sexually, physically, and emotionally abused. Women who experience abuse have a higher incidence of depression.

6. How does one go about getting treatment?

One can simply ask their primary care physician to refer them to a mental health provider. A primary care physician can treat the depression with medication but can refer the patient to a more experienced mental health care provider. A primary care doctor can educate the patient on the causes and symptoms of depression and can make the referral to a psychiatrist or psychologist.

7. Are women are more likely to seek out treatment? Why or why not?

I think women are less likely to seek out treatment. According to Crandall, “women often think they can "work through" a depression on their own.” Women are used to being the one keeping it all together in a family. They may have too much pride to seek treatment from a behavioral health specialist.

References

Crandall, C. J. (2006). Women and Depression. MedicineNet.Com. Retrieved February 7, 2009, from, http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=18987.

The Mayo Clinic. (2008). Depression. Retrieved February 7, 2009 from, http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/depression/MH00035.

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