Depression Hits Women Harder

depressed girlContributed by: Jyoti Sachdeva, MD, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry

Studies show that women are twice as likely as men to have a major depressive disorder during their lifetimes due to a combination of genetic, biological, hormonal, psychological and social factors. The good news is women are generally more attuned to their feelings and often better able to express them, which makes them more likely to seek treatment.

Genetic vulnerability: A genetic vulnerability coupled with stressful life events might contribute to a higher incidence of depression in women. Research suggests that women are more likely than men to become depressed in response to a stressful event.

Fetal development: During fetal development, sexual differentiation occurs in the brain, allowing some brain regions to develop differently in men than in women. In addition, hormones and genes that get disrupted during fetal and early childhood development could make some people more vulnerable to mood disorders, such as depression. Depression may also emerge during adolescence, pregnancy and transition to menopause. During all three periods, hormones flood a woman’s brain and body which directly affects brain chemistry.

Adolescence: Before puberty, depression is split among boys and girls equally. The sex differences emerge in teenagers after puberty, sometime between ages 16 and 20, when girls are about twice as likely to become depressed. If depression runs in the family, it’s important for parents to keep an eye out for their kids after puberty.

Pregnancy: Hormonal fluctuations during and after pregnancy contribute to a heightened risk of depression. Problems conceiving a baby, an unwanted pregnancy or a miscarriage can also contribute to depression. After delivering, the demands of motherhood and caring for a newborn can feel overwhelming. Postpartum depression can be very serious and disabling.

Transition to menopause: The rise and gradual fall of reproductive hormones in the years leading up to and during menopause can contribute to depression. This time period, called perimenopause, can bring both physical and psychological changes that can also influence women’s moods.

Environmental influences: The way women are raised, portrayed and viewed in society and the roles they play can affect their susceptibility to depression, too. A woman’s role as a mother, wife and caregiver for aging parents, along with the pressures of her home and work life, can increase stress. And this stress can lead to depression in some women. Research shows that women tend to be more sensitive to their own emotions as well as the emotional needs of others, which can lead to depression.

The above information was gathered from a recent article, “From Genes to Motherhood: 6 Reasons More Women Get Depressed” posted on June 23, 2014 on livescience.com.

What can women do to increase mental wellness?

  • Nurture yourself. Treat yourself as if you are the most important person in your universe.
  • Monitor your negative self talk.
  • Cultivate positive relationships.
  • —Avoid social isolation and work to enhance social integration.
  • —Spend time with friends and family. Reach out and connect with others.
  • —Create appropriate boundaries with negative people.
  • —Offer sincere appreciation to loved ones. It will make them and you feel better.
  • Join support, fitness and creativity groups.
  • —Ask your physician about potential medications to treat depression.
  • —See one of our therapists. Psychotherapy can be as effective as medication for treating depression.

Find more information about the Psychiatry and Behavioral Health Program at the Women’s Center or to schedule an appointment please call (513) 475-UC4U.

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