The Woman’s Guide For Depression
Depression affects 20 million people in any given year and is a serious enough disorder to compromise one’s ability to function normally day to day. Find out if you’re just blue or if you might be clinically depressed.Women are 2-3 times more likely than men to develop depression or an anxiety disorder. Blame hormones, genetics and stress, experts say. Find out how being female affects mental health, what kinds of questions are asked to diagnose illness and which treatments are available…
Like their bodies, men’s and women’s brains and minds are mostly alike, but they do differ in some significant ways.
These brain differences arise from both our genes and from environmental factors that include family, culture and experience. There is no neat line between biology and psychology.
When our brains undergo change, because of an experience or medication, our thoughts and feelings change as well. When our thoughts and feelings change, as a result of life experience or psychotherapy, our brains undergo change.
Culture also interacts with our biology and psychology.
For example, different cultures have different traditions about how they understand menopause, and those traditions influence the way symptoms are expressed.
Why Your Sex Matters
Sex differences in the brain and the evidence of mental illness on brain scans help to steer research in the most promising directions, but brain scans cannot yet make a diagnosis.Mental disorders are diagnosed on the basis of feelings, thoughts and behaviors.
Therefore, our ideas about normal feelings, thoughts and behaviors play an important role in our concept of some mental disorders. What we view as normal is often closely related to our gender.
For example, we generally expect women to be more passive and dependent than men, and we are more tolerant of men’s anger and aggression than we are of women’s.
When men or women deviate from expected behaviors, even when they are fully able to function and are not troubled by symptoms, there is a tendency to consider them abnormal.
Women’s mental and physical symptoms are often taken less seriously than men’s.
Women who have alcohol problems tend to drink quietly at home rather than getting drunk and violent in a tavern. A belligerent alcoholic man attracts more attention than a depressed and withdrawn woman.
Women are more likely to receive prescriptions for psychiatric medications, perhaps because they make more visits to health care providers and suffer more chronic illnesses during their longer life spans.
It is important to remember that medication can be used both too often and not often enough. Some prescriptions are written before a thorough diagnosis is made. Alternatively, many people who could benefit from medication are not being treated with it.
Mental Health and Women
Women suffer from depression and anxiety disorders two or three times more often than men. The differences are due to a combination of genetics, hormones and stressful experiences. Stress is a universal human experience that can be positive and negative.
Many life changes, like getting married or having a baby, are both stressful and positive. Stress causes changes in our behavior, thoughts and feelings, as well as in our body functions: heart rate, digestion and breathing.
Stress that is not overwhelming can be beneficial to our growth and creativity, but stress that is overwhelming can make us vulnerable to mental and other illnesses.
Some forms of stress are more common in women than in men: poverty, sexual abuse and assault, and domestic violence. Jobs traditionally filled by women, such as secretarial work, nursing and teaching, that have a high level of responsibility and a low level of power, raise a person’s risk of depression.
Women are also more likely to experience sexual harassment, which can increase their risk of anxiety and depression. Stressful experiences like illness, abandonment and disasters cause bodily changes, sadness, irritability, relationship problems and, sometimes, mental disorders.
Mental disorders can also occur for no apparent reason.Domestic violence is a factor in many kinds of mental illnesses. Women have often been blamed for their own victimization. One would hear questions like, “Why didn’t she leave?” or “What did she do to deserve it?”
As a society, we have begun to recognize the criminal nature of domestic violence and to develop legal and other support systems that recognize its impact. Doctors need to be aware of domestic violence and ask appropriate questions at every visit.
Women are often ashamed of being victims, and it may take several visits before a woman feels comfortable enough to reveal her situation to her health care provider. These questions have to be asked in private because abusers often stick close to their victims during medical visits and punish them if they reveal the truth.
We have also learned a great deal about coping with stress, particularly through social support networks. Women who suffer from infertility, depression or cancer are less likely to become depressed when they have strong support systems and/or they can join a group of others with similar experiences.
A natural disaster is often easier to bear than a rape or assault because others are present and there is mutual support. Being active and helping others is the best way to overcome feelings of helplessness and powerlessness.
People with mental illnesses suffer more discrimination and have more difficulty obtaining health care than people with other kinds of illnesses. This is particularly true of schizophrenia, alcohol and substance abuse, and depression.There is a tendency to believe that these conditions can be overcome by determination and prayer. While both determination and prayer can be very useful in overcoming diseases, they are not treatments. A person with a disease should not be blamed for his or her own suffering.
For example, some states in the United States have put pregnant women with alcohol and substance abuse problems in jail, ignoring the fact that many of them desire treatment. As a result, women with these treatable medical conditions are afraid to seek prenatal care for fear of punishment.
An accurate diagnosis is the basis for successful treatment of any disorder. A health provider should ask, and a patient should be prepared to report:
1. What are your symptoms now?
2. What is the history of your symptoms?
- Under what circumstances did they start?
- How long have you had them?
- How have they changed?
- What has made them worse or better?
- What treatments have you had, and how did they work?
3. What is your personal history?
- Who is in your family?
- How was it for you growing up? Any problems?
- What and how did you do in school?
- What kinds of relationships have you had?
4. What is your sexual history?
- What were you taught?
- What do you know?
- What are your past and current sexual practices and concerns?
5. What is your family history, especially of similar symptoms?
- If others in your family had them, what, if anything, helped them?
6. What is your social history?
- Personal habits like smoking, drinking, drugs?
- Marital/relationship status?
- Religion and spirituality?
7. What is your medical history?
- When you started menstruating, any problems?
- Birth control?
- Pregnancies and deliveries?
- Sexually transmitted diseases?
- Past and current medications?
Several types of medications are used to treat depression. Common antidepressants include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), tricyclic antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs. You may need to try different antidepressants to find one that works for you.
Psychological counseling is a key part of depression treatment. Natural remedies such as St. John’s wort, fish oil and ginkgo may also help relieve depression symptoms, while yoga and magnetic stimulation can improve mood. Find out which therapy is right for you.
Making positive lifestyle changes can help ease the emotional and physical toll that depression takes on a person. Exercise, eating healthy foods and participating in activities are a few ways to manage the condition.
Your Health Team
Overall, mental health care is as effective as other kinds of medical care. All health care providers should spend time talking with patients, but in mental health, talking therapy – or psychotherapy – has developed into a specialized skill.
Could You Be Depressed?
Depression can leave you feeling hopeless or embarrassed. But help for depression is out there – including new medicines, talk therapies and natural remedies. Read on for key questions to ask your doctor for beating the blues…
Here are the top questions to ask your doctor to get help for depression.
1. What causes depression?
2. Why does gender matter?
3. Did I do something to cause these feelings?
4. How do I know which medication is best for me?
5. What are my options?
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which increase serotonin levels in the brain. They include fluoxetine (Prozac), sertraline (Zoloft), paroxetine (Paxil), citalopram (Celexa), escitalopram (Lexapro) and fluvoxamine (Luvox).
- Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), which raise both serotonin and norepinephrine levels. They include venlafaxine (Effexor), desvenlafaxine (Pristiq) and duloxetine (Cymbalta).
- Norepinephrine and dopamine reuptake inhibitors (NDRIs), which increase both dopamine and norepinephrine levels. They’re sold under the brand name Wellbutrin (bupropion).
- Mirtazapine (Remeron), which increases the activity of the brain circuits that react to neurotransmitters.
- Aripiprazole (Abilify), an antipsychotic sometimes prescribed along with antidepressants to increase their effectiveness. It’s approved by the Food and Drug Administration for this use.
6. What if those medications don’t work?
7. How long will it take me to feel better?
8. Which side effects do I need to watch for?
9. Can I drink when taking antidepressants?
10. How does therapy help?
11. What type of therapy should I look for?
12. How long will I need therapy?
13. Are alternative treatments effective?
- Omega-3 fatty acids: A supplement that seems beneficial when used with antidepressants, but not as the sole treatment for depression.
- St. John’s wort (hypericum): An herbal dietary supplement most effective for mild to moderate depression, less so for severe depression. However, it may interfere with medications used to treat heart disease, depression, seizures, cancers and organ transplant rejection, as well as oral contraceptives.
- Folate (folic acid): A seemingly effective and well-tolerated B vitamin; it hasn’t been adequately tested for correct dose and form.
- S-adenosyl-L-methionine (SAMe): A supplement for treating major depression with low risk of side effects.
- Light therapy (also known as phototherapy): Most effective for seasonal depression. For major depression, it may be useful when combined with an antidepressant.
14. What lifestyle changes should I make to manage my condition?
15. How should I explain my depression to family and friends?
Thank you for reading this article on The Woman’s Guide For Depression. Please check back with us as we add new articles, blogs and videos daily!
Here are some other blogs and videos that also cover The Woman’s Guide For Depression
Mon, 14 Oct 2013 19:25:24 GMT
Related Checklists. Depression Advocacy Sheet … Health Newsletter. Receive the latest and greatest in women’s health and wellness from EmpowHER – for free! Enter your email address *. joansellshomes … Tags. Depression …
Fri, 10 May 2013 19:10:06 GMT
A Guide To Living Well Without Depression Depression has become a common condition for people from all walks of life. Perhaps one of the biggest things a.
Mon, 14 Oct 2013 07:42:53 GMT
Research published in 2011 showed that working women who try to be “supermoms” are at a greater risk for depression due to the mounting pressure they put on themselves. Those who had a more realistic vision of work and …
Fri, 13 Sep 2013 06:48:00 GMT
Depression is exhausting. It’s anguish. It’s wanting to crawl out of your skin and having nowhere to go. And it’s loneliness, because no matter how committed you are to living life out loud and being real and honest you can’t make people understand the invisible chronic pain you carry around in your … And I miss blogging, I miss the community of women that I get to engage here. …… Praying for you and your family in valencia, spain.be patient, God, s time isn, t our time.
Article By Carol Nadelson, M.D., & Nada Stotland, M.D.