Depression: It’s a painful, frightening disease that affects women in all walks of life. One of the most helpful treatments for improvement is knowing that you are not alone. I welcome everyone to this site: whether it be the woman who is suffering and searching for answers, or her friends and family who want more information, or other individuals who are interested in the topic for myriad of reasons. I also welcome any personal stories from those who want to share their experiences. Through such sharing, we all can gain strength.
Breast Cancer. Menopause. Osteoporosis. Lupus. We all readily associate women with a number of different ailments and conditions such as these. Another illness, which doesn’t come as easily to mind, should also be added to this list–major or clinical depression. Every year millions of women suffer from this mentally painful disease, many of them considering or actually committing suicide.
According to Psychology Information Online, major depression affects twice as many women as men. This two-to-one ratio exists in all racial and ethnic backgrounds and economic status. Eleven other countries worldwide report the same statistics. Men and women have about the same incidence of bipolar, or manic-depressive, disorder, although women usually experience more depressive and fewer manic episodes. A greater number of women also have the rapid cycling form of bipolar disorder–where moods quickly zigzag from highs to lows–which may be more resistant to standard treatments.
Depression is ranked high as a debilitating disease, only coming second to severe forms of arthritis. Yet you don’t see a flood to doctors for treatment. Research indicates that 19 million people suffer from depression each year, and only a third seek help. Despite the fact that most incidences of clinical depression can be treated all or in part by a combination of medication, therapy and change in lifestyle, most women suffer with the consequences and try to heal themselves.
This hesitancy for treatment is often due to the stigma attached to the ailment. Even in this day and age it is difficult for a woman to tell an employer, her child’s teacher or even some friends that she is clinically depressed. In other situations, a woman is incapable of action–even making a doctor’s appointment–because her clinical depression leads to physical changes such a chronic fatigue, sleep problems, and decrease in appetite. The illness also brings on feelings of sadness, emptiness and hopelessness and lessens the ability to concentrate and make decisions. Further, it impacts behavior, leading to increased irritability and loss of temper, social withdrawal, and a decreased desire to partake in pleasurable activities.
Why women experience clinical depression more than men is still unknown. However, research has studied many factors that may cause a woman to become ill. These include biological factors such as reproduction, hormones and genetics; abuse, violence and oppression; interpersonal factors; and certain psychological and personality traits. Yet many women exposed to these stress factors do not get depressed. What makes them different?
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (http://www.nimh.nih.gov), investigators are focusing on several areas regarding women and depression: evidence that the higher incidence of depression in females begins in adolescence; the particular stresses that adult women face; the impact of hormones; the role of postpartum depression; psychological characteristics such as negative attitudes that may be derived from childhood; childhood molestation; and depression later in life.
The challenging news is that we still have a long way to go to understanding this disease and its impact on women and girls. The good news is that such research will someday provide insights into treatment and cures for clinical depression. It also lends credence to the fact that a woman’s complaint of feeling depressed should be taken very seriously and acted upon immediately.