Why is Depression and Women an Issue?
Depression and women has been called the most significant mental health risk for women, especially younger women of childbearing and child rearing age. Women are approximately two times more likely than men to report that they suffer from symptoms of depression.
This two-to-one ratio for depression and women exists regardless of racial and ethnic background or economic status. The same ratio of depression and women has been reported in other countries all over the world. A variety of factors unique to women’s lives are suspected to play a role in developing a depressive disorder. Research is focused on understanding the factors that result in higher rates of depression and women, including: abuse and oppression; interpersonal relationships; certain psychological and personality characteristics, as well as biology.
About Depression and Women
Depression and women are misdiagnosed approximately 30 percent to 50 percent of the time, often because the accompanying physical symptoms, such as fatigue, lack of energy, loss of appetite and sleep disturbance, are reported more often than the psychological symptoms, such as feelings of worthlessness, guilt, low self esteem, hopelessness, helplessness, irritability, loss of pleasure, crying spells and lack of self care. What is clear is that whatever the cause of depression and women, when accurately diagnosed, depression is highly treatable.
What is Depression?
Major depression is characterized by at least two weeks of depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure in nearly all activities, accompanied by at least four additional depressive symptoms such as changes in sleep, appetite, or weight, and psychomotor activity; decreased energy; feelings of worthlessness, guilt; difficulty thinking, concentrating, or making decisions; or recurrent thoughts of death or suicidal ideation, plans, or attempts.
Major depressive symptoms can cause severe impairment in social and physical functioning, including inability to work or carry out daily tasks. This level of depression can lead to suicide and is considered to be potentially fatal. Women attempt suicide approximately twice as often as men. An estimated 15 percent of people hospitalized for severe depressive symptoms eventually take their own lives.
Risk Factors for Depression & Women:
For both women and men, rates of major depression are highest among the separated and divorced, and lowest among the married, while remaining always higher for women than for men. The quality of a marriage, however, may contribute significantly to signs of depression. Depression and women may be related to a lack of an intimate, confiding relationship, as well as ongoing marital disputes. In fact, the unhappily married tend to have the highest rates of depression and women.
Rates of depression and women increase when they have experienced emotional, physical, or sexual abuse or assault
Women are more likely to experience a depressive disorder at some time in their lives than those without such a history.
There are other risk factors for depression and women that result from growing up in dysfunctional families, such as growing up with a parent who was an alcoholic or a parent with a mental illness.
Loss of a Loved One
Sooner or later, we all experience the loss of loved ones and loss is a risk factor for depression. About 800,000 persons are widowed each year. Most of them are older, female, and experience varying degrees of depression. In fact, a third of widows/widowers do meet criteria for a severe depressive episode in the first month after the death, and half of these remain clinically depressed one year later. Because females tend to define their lives based on their relationships, the experience of loss increases the risk for depression and women.
Reproductive Mental Health
Women’s reproductive events include the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, the post pregnancy period, infertility, menopause, and sometimes, the decision not to have children. These events bring fluctuations in mood that may include symptoms of depression, including post-partum depression. Reproductive events may related to increased risk for depression and women.
Low economic status brings with it many stresses, including isolation, uncertainty, frequent negative events, and limited access to helpful resources. Feelings of depression, such as sadness and low morale, are more common among persons with lower incomes. Because females tend to paid less than men, for the same jobs, depression and women may be related to these financial disparities.
Research shows that one out of three depressed people also suffers from some form of substance abuse or dependence. There is also a higher incidence of anxiety and depression among women who abuse alcohol and/or drugs. Eating disorders (anorexia and bulimia nervosa) and depression have also been shown to be diagnosed at higher rates in women. Hence, the use of alcohol, drugs and eating disorders tend to result in increased rates of depression and women, compared to men.
Treatment for Depression and Women
Depression is a common and highly treatable disorder. The most commonly used treatments for depression are psychotherapy, psychiatric medications, or a combination of the two. Both treatments have been proven to be effective in reducing depression and in cases of severe or incapacitating depression combined treatment is recommended. Once identified, depression can almost always be successfully treated by psychotherapy, medication, or a combination of both. If this combination has not worked, however, it is probably time to try a higher level of care, like an Intensive Outpatient Program.
Where Treatment for Depression & Women Occurs
Whether the type of treatment is psychotherapy and/or medication, most treatment for depression occurs on an outpatient basis. Hospitalization is now reserved for only the most severe, unsafe cases. This has resulted in a significant gap between traditional outpatient therapy, which usually occurs for one hour per week, and the 24 hour care provided in the hospital. Fortunately, there are now Intensive Outpatient Programs that have proven to be effective in the treatment of severe depression and women.
These programs provide services to those who need more treatment than one hour a week, but less than 24 hour care, by providing up to three hours of treatment per day, three to five days per week, in an outpatient setting. Mental Health Resources specializes in providing an Intensive Outpatient Program for Depression and other behavioral health disorders. Call now to schedule an assessment to determine if our Intensive Outpatient Program can help you.