Depression is the most underrated medical condition, affecting all but primarily most common in women. Depression, which is mostly categorized as a mood disorder, is a much more complex disorder that can disturb the whole life of an individual, refraining him to lead a normal happy life. Along with the affected person, his near and dear ones are also under the effect of the depressive state.
Depression as related to mental well-being and psychotic relations is not openly discussed or talked about. The norms of society that have tagged individuals into normal or abnormal beings have created a taboo for seeking help about depression.
Though the symptoms and causes of depression for 2 different individuals may differ if not taken care of in the early stages, depression can lead to serious consequences one being suicide.
We need to study and acknowledge more about depression in order to know the state of the mind and help our loved ones to cope and heal from it.
Being sad all the time without any known cause, feeling anxious, irritable, becoming isolated, feeling weak, confused, not being able to focus on work, difficulty in sleeping, all are common symptoms of depression, that we will discuss in detail below.
Why are Women more Affected by Depression than Men
Though men are also widely affected by depression, women cases are twice as common as men. Reasons can be attributed to the different biological processes happening in women.
A woman’s life undergoes events like pregnancy, menstruation, menopause, which disturbs the hormonal balance and can lead to depression. Let’s know about some possible causes in women that lead to depression.
#1. Biological Changes
Hormone fluctuations are at a peak during Pregnancy. Mostly the depressive state is disguised as pregnancy effects. High levels of Oestrogen and Progesterone commonly cause tiredness and morning sickness but can also cause mood swings and anxiety.
Symptoms such as anxiety, irregular sleep patterns, loss of appetite, and mood swings are thought to be due to pregnancy or childbirth and the possibility of depression is not checked upon.
Moreover, some ladies do not speak out about their suffering due to social stigma.
High levels of Cortisol, due to chronic health conditions such as hypothyroidism and Parkinson’s disease also lead to a depressive state of mind.
Neurotransmitters such as Serotonin, Dopamine, Norepinephrine are known as mood elevators which are reduced drastically during pregnancy, menstruation, PCOD, prolonged stress, and menopause. The deficiency of such neurotransmitters disturbs brain function and elevates depression.
#2. Brain Chemistry
Depression affects the central nervous system of individuals. Prolonged stress can lead to decreased supply of oxygen to the brain cells leading to inflammation in the brain and nerve degeneration.
The brain size decreases known as brain shrinkage affecting different parts of the brain such as the Hippocampus, Amygdala, and Thalamus. This leads to poor functioning of neurotransmitters and poor coordination of the brain and body. There is poor brain development resulting in an inability to think, memorize and respond.
#3. Genetic Reasons
Depression has been traced back into the family history of the affected individuals. Studies have shown that the children of the persons affected with depression are more prone to get affected by this condition. Pregnant mothers can also pass some traits to newborns.
However, if the parents become aware of their depression and are mindfully getting treatment about their condition, they can wisely guide and prevent their children from falling under it.
The genetic makeup of some individuals such as transgenders, gays, lesbians, who are not easily accepted in society due to poor legal and social norms are deeply affected by this condition.
#4. Other Causes
- Physical abuse, sexual abuse and drug abuse.
- Traumatic events such as loss of a loved one, death, financial loss, failures.
- History of other medical conditions such as Anaemia, Down’s Syndrome, Obesity, Autoimmune disorders, Tuberculosis, Covid-19.
- Less social relations or lack of family or support.
- Certain prolonged medications such as antihypertensive drugs, steroids, and sleeping pills.
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Symptoms of Depression in Women
#1. Feeling Sad
Depression can make you feel sad and low even without any reason. You may start losing interest in the activities you loved before such as going out, enjoying, laughing, or having the sexual drive, and could not feel happy on good occasions.
Women affected by depression may stop socializing and can be comfortable staying alone. This isolation will lead to more frustration and then a person can indulge in addictions such as alcohol or drugs.
#2. Anxiety and Frustration
Depression can cause anxiety attacks or panic attacks during any unexpected situation or sudden change in life events. There will be a great difference between the response of a healthy individual and the one in depression towards a similar situation.
Responses such as anger outbursts, restlessness, trouble in memorizing or making decisions even on small matters can be seen. Inability to sleep can worsen your health.
#3. Increased Fears and Self Doubts
Due to prolonged stress, the thinking capacity or decision-making is hindered. The person in depression may not be able to fulfill their goal or solve any problem, which will lead to self-doubt and fear of failure.
Overthinking is common which will lead to poor concentration and lack of trust.
Self-doubts will lead to frustration and the women may experience suicidal thoughts or attempts.
#4. Sleep Disturbances
During stress, the secretion of the sleep-inducing enzyme melatonin is disturbed. Different individuals show different sleep patterns.
As some may find it difficult to sleep or some may have prolonged sleep durations.
Lack of sleep can lead to tiredness and invite other health issues such as poor digestion, less productivity, and medical conditions such as diabetes and heart diseases.
Hopelessness or lack of interest in day-to-day life will prevent them from getting up from sleep and thus they spend much time in bed and avoid moving out.
#5. Reduced Appetite or Overeating
Women in depression may experience food cravings out of the blues. This may lead to overeating and unhealthy eating habits. Common being sugar cravings during an anxiety attack.
Often in depression, there can be episodes of low appetite. You may not eat properly even if it’s your favorite dish served. Low appetite can cause low blood sugar levels which will slow down the brain functions and make you more tired and inactive.
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Prenatal and Postpartum Depression
As discussed above, there are a series of hormonal changes occurring in a woman’s body during pregnancy and after pregnancy. The levels of estrogen and progesterone are at a peak during pregnancy and after delivery, these hormone levels come back to pre-pregnancy state.
Moreover, after delivery women undergo vaginal bleeding ( lochia ) which can lead to anaemia if dietary intake is not enough or bleeding occurs for prolonged days. Lower Hb levels can also lead to anxiety attacks and accelerate depression symptoms. You must look for iron supplements to improve oxygen supply to the brain that can help in eliminating deficiency.
Moreover, hormonal changes, blood loss, and breastfeeding bring along certain mood fluctuations and behavioral changes in new mothers.
If not taken care of properly or lack of support to new mothers can lead to depression.
Some symptoms discussed below can help you to diagnose the depressive condition.
#1. The Baby Blues
Baby blues is a type of depression that a woman feels just after delivering a child and can stay up to one week after childbirth. It goes off on its own without any medication as the hormones get stable.
Baby blues must not be linked to postpartum depression as the latter is a more prolonged and severe condition.
- Feeling to cry
- Feeling overwhelmed or sad
- Anxiety attacks or mood swings
- Sleep disturbances
- Not feeling hungry
#2. Prenatal Depression
Prenatal depression may be felt during pregnancy till childbirth. This should not be confused with pregnancy effects and the woman should not hesitate to open up to her physician about it.
- Not taking care of health and nurturing baby
- Fear of responsibility of baby
- Not socializing
- Reduced interest in performing daily tasks
- Over Demanding behaviour
- Lack of joy in life
- Sense of failure
- Loss of libido
- Sleep problems( insomnia or sleeping more
#3. Postpartum Psychosis
Postpartum psychosis mostly starts from the 4th week after childbirth. Women with bipolar disorder are more prone to this severe condition.
- Not trusting anyone
- Fear of not taking care of child properly
- Refusal to sleep and eat
- Thoughts of hurting yourself or others
We need to break the taboo about talking about it so that women could speak about their situation without any hesitation.
Gynecologists should look for the prenatal depressive symptoms and guide accordingly.
Family therapy may involve group counseling in which all the members of the family can be counseled and can be guided for more cooperation and happy living.
Menopause changes must be acknowledged with partner’s cooperation which can strengthen your relationship.
A nutritious diet rich in iron, vitamin C, exposure to the sun, regular exercise, and meditation or yoga have proven results in coping up with depression.
However, if the symptoms still persist and are making your life tough, you must consult a specific neurologist or psychologist. Medications, along with therapies such as CBT are helpful in combating depression.