Women and depression is a topic that has received a great amount of comments at this website. We have written about Understanding Depression, including descriptions, causes and remedies for the different types of depression; but women want to know more about their gender-specific concerns. Here is what we know about women and depression.

Major depression affects twice as many women as men. This two-to-one ratio exists regardless of racial and ethnic background or economic status. The same ratio has been reported in eleven other countries all over the world. The reason for the higher incidents of women and depression is unknown, but changes in a woman’s hormone levels may be the culprit. Before adolescence, the rate of depression is about the same in girls and boys. However, with the onset of puberty, a girl's risk of developing depression increases dramatically to twice that of boys.

Why Women Experience Depression Differently Than Men

According to the National Institutes of Health, factors that increase the risk of depression in women include reproductive, genetic, or other biological factors; interpersonal factors; and certain psychological and personality characteristics. In addition, women juggling work with raising kids and women who are single parents suffer more stress that may trigger symptoms of depression. Other factors that could increase risk include:
family history of mood disorders
• history of mood disorders in early reproductive years
• loss of a parent before age 10
• loss of social support system or the threat of such a loss
• ongoing psychological and social stress, such as loss of a job, relationship stress, separation or divorce
• physical or sexual abuse as a child
• use of certain infertility treatments
• use of certain oral contraceptives

Medical experts are researching the relationship between hormone level changes with the impact on women and depression. They have found the following information about women and depression.
• Hormone changes are evident during puberty, pregnancy, menopause, after giving birth, and having a hysterectomy.

• Hormones fluctuate with each month's menstrual cycle and can cause premenstrual syndrome, or PMS, or premenstrual dysphoric disorder, or PMDD -- marked by depression, anxiety, cyclical mood shifts, and lethargy.
• Many women are particularly vulnerable to depression after giving birth, when hormonal and physical changes and the new responsibility of caring for a newborn can be overwhelming.
• Hormonal changes increase during the transition into menopause. While some women may transition into menopause without any problems with mood, others experience an increased risk for depression.

Depression among women can coexist with eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, and social phobias. Depression also often coexists with other serious medical illnesses and may even make symptoms of the illness worse.

What Is a Woman To Do?

Remember, depression is a treatable psychological problem, and treatment is effective for most women. Depression in women may occur earlier in life, last longer, be more likely to reoccur, be more likely to be associated with stressful life events, and be more sensitive to [seasonal changes]. Take the following steps to curb the effects of depression:

• Network. Take time to socialize and stay connected with friends and family. Enjoy company and keep the loneliness away.
• Relax. By practicing relaxation techniques for 10 minutes a day, you can boost the positive chemicals produced by the brain and stave off some of the effects of depression.
• Eat a nutritious diet. Try to maintain a more balanced diet of protein, fruits, vegetables and complex carbohydrates. Drink lots of water to flush out toxins from your body.
• Increase your daily exercise. Combat lethargy and get moving. Regular exercise—even 10 minutes a day, can be an effective remedy by increasing energy levels and decreasing feelings of fatigue.
• Engage in a creative outlet or hobby that fosters a sense of achievement.
• Seek emotional support from friends, family members, or a professional counselor when needed.

Author's Bio: 

Ann Gatty, Ph.D. is a certified teacher, mentor, author and organizational strategist. Through her website, www.stress-management-4-women.com, Dr. Gatty coaches women in stress management strategies, life skill development, and building life transitions to balance personal and professional goals. Previously she designed and taught college courses in education and leadership. In addition, Ann has extensive experience working with non-profit and for profit organizations. This background gives her insights into the many challenges women have balancing professional and personal responsibilities. Ann now dedicates her coaching practice to helping women, both on-line and face-to-face, during periods of life transition and/or finding ways to maximize their potential as women entrepreneurs. She is the author of Discovering God’s Recipe for a Healthy Body, Heart and Soul. Ann Gatty earned a Ph.D. in Instruction and Learning from the University of Pittsburgh, School of Education. She is married, the mother of two young adult boys, and shares her home with her husband, two Great Danes and a Bassett Hound.