About 1 in 5 women will deal with depression at some point in their lives, and women are twice as likely than men to be diagnosed with depression. This means you may know someone that has experienced depression or you may experience it yourself.
Although depression affects many of us, it is still often misunderstood. We may feel sad from time to time, but depression is a mood disorder that is very different. If you have depression, not only does it affect your life more, it also doesn’t go away quickly or easily. People who experience depression can’t simply “snap out of it.” Another sobering fact is that the highest incidence of depression for women is during the ages of 18–45.
Why does depression affect such a broad age group of women and how does depression differ for women?
During the years from 18–45 there are a lot of changes in a woman’s life that can be triggers for stress and depression. They might be figuring out their identity, working on their career, getting married, getting divorced, starting a family, or they may lose a parent or loved ones during this time.
There are also physical changes that make women more prone to depression versus men. Hormones are the chemicals in our brain that can affect us both physically and mentally. Women go through hormonal changes during menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause, or when they take birth control. In addition, women are also more likely to encounter assault and domestic violence, which are also triggers for stress and depression.
Why are women more likely to be diagnosed with depression?
In general, women are more socialized to be in tune with their emotions. This means they may be more likely to recognize that the pain they feel could be from depression. Men, by contrast, may turn to distractors such as alcohol or substance abuse to cover their discomfort and they tend to recognize depression when it is more severe.
How does depression impact day-to-day life?
Anxiety and depression can affect your physical and mental well being. When you’re stressed, you release stress hormones that cause your blood vessels to constrict because it primes you to take action, and this state is called “fight or flight.” If you keep feeling stressed and your vessels keep constricting, it can lead to heart disease. Depression can also bring on health problems because when you are depressed you may be making poor life choices like not eating well, not exercising, or isolating yourself. Depression has been shown to worsen the health outcomes in people with heart disease and diabetes.
What are early warning signs for depression in women?
Some of the early signs of depression in women could include forgetfulness or any changes in your sleep or appetite. A lot of women are tired because they have a lot of obligations in their life from family and work, but being more tired than normal is also an early sign.
What can I do to help a friend or myself when facing depression?
If you think that you or a friend is dealing with depression, the first step is to recognize it’s not something you can get over or “snap out of.” Having a trusted friend or mentor that you can talk to is a great place to start. If you feel that you don’t have someone you can talk to, seeking out a therapist is another great option. Therapists can help you develop coping skills and identify the triggers that are causing your anxiety or depression. If your depression is severe enough, seeing a psychiatrist for medication can also help you.
What are ways I can be proactive about my mental health?
One way to care for your mental health is to have a self-care plan. Try to do something for yourself at least once a week, whether it is reading, dancing, or engaging in some other activity that makes you feel good. Other beneficial habits include regular exercise and a good diet, and surrounding yourself with a supportive community of family and friends. Setting small goals that you can accomplish will also give you a sense of success and improve your overall mood.
About the author
Dr. Alexia Kevonian is a licensed clinical psychologist with extensive training in working with individuals and families. After completing her doctorate in clinical psychology at Biola University’s Rosemead School of Psychology, she worked at several child guidance centers across Los Angeles County before starting her private practice. Dr. Kevonian uses a family systems approach combined with cognitive behavioral therapy to work on issues ranging from childhood trauma, to depression and anxiety, to relationship conflicts. She believes that the therapist and the patient work together as a team in order to achieve desired results, and her goal is to make each patient feel supported throughout the journey.