Feelings of being sad can be a normal reaction in difficult times of life which goes away with a little time. But Depression is different and isn’t there just for a brief period where you feel down or sad. It is a serious mood disorder that might cause severe symptoms which can affect how to think, feel and handle your daily activities such as working, sleeping, or eating. Although it can happen to anyone, Depression is seen to be more common among women as compared to Men. Also, women tend to experience Depression differently than men based on the factors which are unique for women.
A woman has to serve various roles throughout their lives. Daughter, wife, mother, employee, friend, caregiver, healer, etc based on the role and the relationship wherein the complexity of all these roles can be the reason to cause ups and downs in their lives which could include impacting on their social life, physical health, career, relationships and even on their sense of worth. This can become more complicated by biological factors such as reproductive or hormonal and other social pressures faced by her and becoming a reason for their stress. Therefore, it is essential to learn about the signs and symptoms of depression in women impacting their wellbeing.
Signs and symptoms of depression in women
The symptoms of depression among women may vary from mild to severe ones (major depression) which are distinguished by the impact they might have on the ability to function. These signs can be:
- Changes in the appetite can lead to significant weight gain or weight loss.
- Increase in pain and aches in the body which includes headaches, breast tenderness, cramps, or bloating.
- Feelings of hopelessness or helplessness. You may feel and think that nothing will get better in the future and you won’t be able to do anything to improve your situation.
- There can be troubles in making decisions, concentrating, and remembering things.
- Changes in the sleep cycle.
- Feelings of being agitated, angry, restless, fatigued, or low in energy.
- Not feeling to take up any past times, hobbies, and social activities that you used to enjoy previously.
- Thoughts of being suicidal.
Other than these symptoms, women can also experience certain other symptoms than men, which include:
- Persistent feelings of guilt and worthlessness as you may criticize yourself for mistakes and faults of the past.
- Depression in the months of winter (seasonal affective disorder) can take place due to lower levels of sunlight.
- Symptoms of a typical depression wherein rather than eating less, sleeping less, and losing weight, you may experience the opposite: eating more (especially carbohydrates), excessive sleep, and gaining weight.
As mentioned above, women experience depression twice as likely as men. This gender disparity can be explained by the number of biological, social, and hormonal factors which are specific to women such as:
Premenstrual Problems: Fluctuations in hormones during the menstrual cycle may cause the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) such as irritability, fatigue, bloating, and emotional reactivity. For some women, if the symptoms are severe then it may warrant the diagnosis of premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) characterized by irritability, severe depression, and other mood disturbances.
Pregnancy and infertility: As known, that many hormones change during the time of pregnancy period can contribute to depression, particularly for women who are at higher risk/ other issues related to pregnancy that can hinder wellbeing can be a miscarriage, infertility, or unwanted pregnancy that also plays a major role in depression.
Post-partum depression: For the new mothers, experiencing the “baby blues” is not uncommon wherein typical symptoms may start to begin in the months following birth and while for some women, it can occur when they are still pregnant.
Menopause and perimenopause: During menopause, women are more at the risk for depression, the stage leading to menopause when reproductive hormones tend to fluctuate.
Physiological response by females to stress: Women produce more stress hormones than men, and the female sex hormone called progesterone prevents the stress hormone system from turning itself off as it does in men which makes women more susceptible to develop depression triggered by stress.
Thyroid problems such as hypothyroidism can also be the cause of depression development where medical attention is always ruled out by the physician.
Body image concerns that increase in girls during their sexual development stage marking the beginning of puberty may contribute to depression in the age of adolescence.
However, there can be other causes of depression based on the social life and other aspects of the individuals such as:
- Family history of Depression
- Trauma or abuse in early childhood
- A lack of social support induces feelings of being lonely and isolating oneself
- Drug and Alcohol abuse
- Family responsibilities such as caring for a spouse, children, and aging parents.
- Marital or relationship problems, facing and making a balance in home life and career.
- The death of a loved one or other stressful events leaves the feeling of being helpless, useless, alone, and sad.
- Experiences of getting discriminated at work or not reaching important goals, retirement and losing or changing the job, etc.
At the same time, it is also essential to remember that depression, at any stage or point in life and for any reason, is serious and requires to be taken seriously. There are many things that you can do to treat your depression and feel better. Such as:
1. Reaching out to social support
Feeling better may take time, especially for a person who is dealing with depression and doesn’t feel like making an effort. But you can get there if you make some positive choices for yourself each day and take the support of others.
Getting support from people who care about you can play an important role in overcoming depression therefore you should ask for the support you need and share what you might be going through with your loved ones. You may get support through:
- Look for support from the people who make you feel loved and safe, who are good listeners and listen to your concerns attentively without distraction or making a judgment.
- Making a face time priority: social media, phone calls and messaging can be used as a great way to stay in touch.
- Keeping up with the social activities even when you don’t feel like it: It is understandable that when you are depressed it feels more comfortable to get back into your shell, but rather being around people can make you feel less depressed.
- Find ways to support others: It is nice to receive support but providing support to other people can turn out to be even a bigger mood boost.
2. Taking care of your health
You may need to take care of yourself effectively to deal with depression and do things that help to feel relaxed and makes you energetic which can include:
- 8 hours of sleep: Depression can hinder the sleep cycle of the individual as you may sleep too little or too much making your mood suffer. Therefore, you may need to adopt healthy sleeping habits.
- Keep track of stress: Prolonged stress not only worsens depression but can also trigger it. Try to figure out the things which make you feel stressed and find ways to relieve the pressure and regain your control over it.
- Practicing mindful relaxation techniques: A daily mindful relaxation technique can help reduce stress, relieve the symptoms of depression, and increase feelings of well-being and joy. These techniques can include deep breathing, yoga, and meditation, or muscle relaxation.
- Caring for the pet: Pets can bring joy in one’s life and helps to feel less isolated and can prove to be a powerful antidote to depression.
- Doing things which you enjoy (or used to enjoy): You cannot force yourself to have fun or pleasure but you can push yourself to do the things even when you do not feel like doing it. Pick up a hobby or an activity which you used to do or never got time to do.
3. Get up and move
Exercise is a powerful aspect to fight depression and is a most important tool for depression recovery. Studies have suggested that exercising regularly can prove to be as effective as antidepressant medication by increasing the levels of energy and reducing the feelings of fatigue. A 30 minutes walk each day will also be the boost that you may need.
What can we do with exercise?
- Improves the level of energy by reducing fatigue: It can be difficult for the person to exercise in depression, as you may feel exhausted. Studies have suggested that if we continue to exercise, it helps to improve further.
- Try exercises that are rhythmic and continuous: The major benefits to overcome depression can come up by doing rhythmic exercises such as weight training, dancing, or walking wherein you have to move both your legs and arms.
- Adding a mindfulness element to the exercise: You may try to focus on the rhythm of your breathing, the sensation of your touch with the ground, and feeling the wind touching your skin. Just try and focus on what your body feels when you move.
4. Healthy eating to fight Depression
What you eat may have a direct impact on the way you feel. Some women find nutritional supplements, dietary modifications, and herbal remedies as an aid to relieve the symptoms of depression. These include:
- Not skipping meals: Aim to eat something at least every three to four hours as long breaks between the meals can make you feel tired and irritated.
- Cutting back on salt, caffeine, unhealthy fats and alcohol can help in reducing the symptoms of depression.
- Consuming food with Omega-3 fatty acids plays an important role in stabilizing mood.
- Boosting Vitamin B: Deficiencies in B vitamins such as B-12 and folic acid can trigger depression. Consuming citrus fruits, beans, leafy vegetables, egg and chicken, and also, Vitamin B-6 along with magnesium, calcium, tryptophan, and vitamin E have been shown to have positive effects on women suffering from PMDD.
- Adding herbal supplements such as chaste tree berry and primrose oil has been proven to be effective in the treatment of depression.
- Getting enough Iron as low levels of iron can produce common depression symptoms such as fatigue, irritability, and difficulty in concentrating on things.
5. Getting sunlight daily
Sunlight helps in boosting serotonin levels and thus, improving your mood. Aim to sit in the sunlight daily for at least 15 minutes.
- Take a walk in the park, sit on your balcony for a while, or spend time gardening.
- Increase the amount of natural light at your workplace and home by opening up curtains and sitting near the window while doing your work.
- Try to double up the benefit and exposure to sunlight by exercising outside.
6. Challenging your negative thinking
Depression makes the person feel hopeless about things, including the way you perceive yourself and the expectations that you hold for the future. When these types of thoughts overwhelm you, it is, therefore, essential to remember that these are the symptoms of depression- these pessimistic attitudes and irrational thoughts that are known as cognitive distortions are false beliefs that aren’t realistic.
Women tend to ruminate when they are feeling depressed and may spend hours thinking about these feelings, which can worsen the symptoms of depression for the person who is already suffering from it. From which, you can just break off the pessimistic mindset at that time by telling yourself to just be positive, which might be a lifelong pattern of thinking which makes it even more difficult to workaround.
You can develop a more helpful and balanced way of thinking by identifying the thoughts, especially the negative ones contributing to your depression, and then learning to replace them with a more positive and balanced form of thinking and perceiving things.
7. Getting professional help to deal with the concerns
In case you aren’t able to get better from the self-help treatment consider taking help from a mental health professional. Women may also require simultaneous treatment for eating disorders or anxiety, different from the treatment for men.
Medication: Medications such as antidepressants can help in relieving the symptoms of depression, but will not be able to cure the underlying concern. There are biological differences between both men and women; therefore, women are started with lower doses of depression as compared to men, due to their susceptibility to experiencing more side effects. As simple as it sounds, it may require professional assistance therefore, do not rely on doctors who are not trained in mental health for guidance on medications, and remember that medications will work best with the changes that you will make in your lifestyle.
Therapy: This is an essential and extremely effective treatment for depression that provides you with insights and skills to relieve depression, further preventing it from coming back. Also, it is important to consider before choosing the online therapist is the connection that may have with the person, as the right online therapist will be a supportive and caring partner in your journey of recovering from depression.
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