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Depression in women

Depression in women is very common, however many women are embarrassed to get help due to the stigma associated with depression.  There are many people who believe that depression is not a real disease but in reality it is a very serious disease that can affect the daily life of the individual affected by it.  Women are twice as likely than men to suffer from depression and 1 in 5 women will develop some type of depression in their life.  There are mood changes that normally occur with age and hormonal changes however these are not feelings that linger over time.  Depression can also affect how you interact with friends and family and it can affect your behavior, thoughts, feelings and physical health.

Depression in Puberty

Depression rates in puberty are higher in females than males.  Girls generally reach puberty sooner, so they are more likely to suffer from depression sooner.  The hormonal changes that girl’s have during puberty can increase some girls’ chances of suffering from depression. Temporary mood changes, however, are normal during puberty.  Other factors that can that can lead to depression during puberty are:

  • Emerging sexually and identity issues
  • Parental issues
  • Pressure to achieve in school, sports or  other areas of life


Premenstrual syndrome (pms) symptoms such as, bloating, irritability, breast tenderness, anxiety, sadness, headache, are usually short lived symptoms for most women.  However, there are some women that have severe and disabling symptoms that disrupt their daily activities and relationships.  Once PMS is at that point it may cross the line to premenstrual dysphoric disorder (pmdd), which usually requires treatment.

The link between PMS and depression is not known, however it is believed that estrogen, progesterone and other hormones may affect the function of brain chemicals, such as serotonin which controls mood.  Some traits may be inherited. Factors in life and experiences may also play a role.


During pregnancy a woman’s body goes through dramatic hormonal changes and these changes can affect mood.  Not only can hormonal issues affect your chances of developing depression but other issues can also lead to depression. These issues include, but are not limited to:

  • Previous episodes of depression, post-partum depression or PMDD
  • Changes in lifestyle or work
  • Lack of social support
  • Miscarriage
  • Infertility
  • Stopping antidepressant medication
  • Relationship problems
  • Mixed feelings about being pregnant
  • Unwanted Pregnancy

Post-Partum Depression

Being a new mother can be an emotional time for any woman.  And these emotions can lead women to feel sad, angry, irritable or prone to crying.  Normally these feelings should subside within a couple of weeks of delivery, however there are some women that will develop severe and long lasting depressed feelings that can lead to major depression. The signs of post-partum depression include but are not limited to:

  • Thoughts of harming your baby
  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Inability to care for your baby
  • Low self-esteem
  • Anxiety
  • Agitation

Post-partum depression occurs in about 10-25 percent of women and requires prompt medical treatment.  The cause of post-partum is thought to be associated with major hormonal fluctuations that influence mood, predisposition to mood and anxiety disorders, birth complications, and poor social support.

Depression During Perimenopause and Menopause

During your transition to menopause, a stage of perimenopause, risk of depression may increase due to the erratic fluctuation of hormones.  During early or after menopause depression risk may increase due to a reduction of estrogen.

Usually women who experience uncomfortable menopausal symptoms don’t develop menopause.  If you have a history of depression or your sleep is severely disrupted you have a higher risk of depression.  If you have had an hysterectomy with removal of ovaries this can lead to an abrupt onset of menopause leading to severe symptoms, including mood changes and depression.

Life Situations

Depression is not always due to biology alone.  Sometime your life stressors or cultural situations can play a part too.  Causes that may add to a woman’s risk may include the following:

  • Work overload. Women often have two jobs, working outside the home and still have to handle domestic responsibilities.  There are many women who find themselves as single mothers, and one of these challenges is juggling multiple jobs.  Women may also be caregivers of multiple generations which means they may be caring for their own children while also caring for sick or older family members.   These stressors can make you more vulnerable to depression.
  • Unequal power and Status. Poverty is something women are more likely to suffer from more than men.   With limited earning potential and poverty, this can bring many concerns and stressors, including uncertainty about the future and less access to the community and health services.  Minority women may face more stress with racial discrimination and limited English.  All of these issues can cause a women to feel as if she doesn’t have control over her life, and increase feelings of negativity and low self-esteem, which can lead to depression.
  • Sexual or physical abuse. Women who were or are currently physically or sexually abused, as children or adults, are more likely to suffer from at some point in their lives than those who were not.

Other Conditions That Can Develop With Depression

Often women that suffer from depression are also affected by other mental health disorders that will usually require treatment as well.  Some of these disorders include:

  • Anxiety
  • Eating Disorders
  • Drug or Alcohol Abuse

Recognizing Depression and getting treatment

Depression sounds like an overwhelming disease, however there are many effective treatments for depression.  Even severe depression can usually be treated successfully.  If you have any of the signs and symptoms of listed below you should seek help.

  • Ongoing feelings of guilt, sadness or hopelessness
  • Loss of interest in things you once enjoyed
  • Significant changes in your sleep patterns, such as falling asleep at unusual times, sleeping long hours, unable to sleep.
  • Fatigue, or unexplained or physical symptoms without an apparent cause.
  • Significant changes in weight, such as rapidly losing or gaining weight
  • Feeling as though life isn’t worth living or having thoughts of suicide.

If you are not sure where to turn for treatment you can start with your family doctor.  That can include a family practitioner, internist, nurse practitioner or obstetrician and gynecologist such as Dr. De Leon.  If necessary, your doctor may refer you to a specialist in mental health. One who specializes in diagnosing and treating mental illness.

If you think you suffer from depression it is very important that you seek treatment.  Don’t worry about what people think because this is a very common disorder and it is very treatable.  Dr. De Leon can help you get started on a road to recovery.