If you are a woman, the chances are you have struggled with depression at some point in your life. And if you haven’t, you may at some point, so understanding depression and its signs and symptoms is extremely important. If this is not a disorder that affects you personally, you may know someone close to you who struggles with depression. Either way, being aware of and educated on one of the most common mental disorders is beneficial for you regardless.
Signs of Depression in Women
To start, what are the signs of depression in women, and how do you know that you may have depression? In this article, I start by outlining some of these signs and then move on to discussing treatment options.
Symptoms of depression in women include:
- A persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
- The loss of interest or pleasure in activities, including sex
- Restlessness, irritability, or excessive crying
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness, hopelessness, or pessimism
- Sleeping too much or too little, or early-morning waking
- Appetite and/or weight loss, or overeating and weight gain
- Decreased energy, fatigue, and feeling “slowed down”
- Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
- Persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, such as headaches, digestive disorders, and chronic pain
Why are Women More Likely to be Depressed?
Why is depression in women more common than depression in men? According to WebMD:
…some experts believe that the increased chance of depression in women may be related to changes in hormone levels that occur throughout a women’s life. These changes are evident during puberty, pregnancy, and menopause, as well as after giving birth or experiencing a miscarriage. In addition, the hormone fluctuations that occur with each month’s menstrual cycle probably contribute to premenstrual syndrome, or PMS, and premenstrual dysphoric disorder, or PMDD—a severe syndrome marked especially by depression, anxiety, and mood swings that occurs the week before menstruation and interferes with normal functioning of daily life. (Source: WebMD, Reviewed by Joseph Goldberg, MD on April 04, 2016).
Is Depression Hereditary?
Another common question I get asked in my practice is, “Is depression hereditary?” Depression can run in families and when it does it often starts in adolescence. An individual will typically experience depression between the ages of 15 and 30. For girls, this often occurs after starting their period when hormones and puberty changes begin. Some girls may experience this immediately after starting their period, while others may experience depression a few years after starting their period. Moreover, according to WebMD, family links to depression are much more common in women than they are in men.
How is Depression Treated?
How is depression in women treated? You may well ask this, especially if you are not very knowledgeable on the subject. Do not worry, you are not alone and many people are unsure about this. The purpose of this article is to increase awareness and education regarding this mental health issue that affects millions of Americans daily.
Treatment for depression includes:
- Individual counseling or therapy,
- Antidepressant medications that can help with depression and anxiety (which often exist together),
- ECT therapy, a brain stimulation technique, and
- Family therapy if stress within your family adds to your current state of depression.
The good news is that a combination of counseling and medication can be very effective in most cases, as depression and anxiety are treatable mental health disorders.
The Stigma around Depression
For those who do not believe that depression exists, please understand that it is in fact a documented medical condition in many people. Just as diabetes is in the body, so depression is a medical condition of the brain, which is very real. The stigma still associated with mental health issues is unfathomable to me as a licensed mental health counselor. I have seen and treated many people with depression for over ten years now, and I can tell you that it affects anyone and everyone. It can affect any race, religion, sex, or working or non-working individual – depression does not discriminate. Sadly, I find that many people struggle secretly as they are worried about what others will think of them if they admit to having depression. Depression is not your fault, you are not alone, you can get help, and it will get better. Don’t let anyone dictate your life to you, or what you are to do with it.
Depression and the Danger of Suicide
Depression in women can become severe and may lead to suicidal thoughts or attempts at suicide. This is not a disorder to take lightly, or to brush under the rug, as some people may think. Someone who is struggling with severe depression should immediately seek help from a mental health counselor and doctor in order to receive treatment. As with any mental health illness, support from family and friends is significant and necessary for the well-being of the woman or girl struggling with depression. If you or a loved one are suffering, please know that help is available to you and that you are not alone in your struggles.
I have been to more funerals for someone who took their own life than I would like to admit. It has always broken my heart because I found myself wondering whether they could have been helped, and how things could have turned out differently for them. I must believe that God has a plan, even in these dark, awful, unthinkable moments. I don’t believe any of us will ever know what that plan is until we get to heaven ourselves.
God is With Us in Our Pain
Loss is the most painful thing I have ever experienced in my entire life, and I know personally how dark depression can get. Losing a baby was one of the darkest moments of my life and I never want to relive it, ever. But I must say that God has given me life again, now that I am on the other side of it and am finally in the sunshine. I have new dreams, new purpose, and an awakening to my whole reason for being on this earth. I believe that God has a destiny for all of us, and that we must just be open to the possibilities, even in the hardest of times.
God is there, whispering to you, “I am here, please don’t give up.” This may be hard to hear above all of the noise in your life, with people telling you what they think you should do, or the world trying to dictate who and what you should be. Do me a favor and don’t listen to them. God knows you better than anyone, even if you do not know him yet. He wants to know you, he wants to save you, he wants to love you, and bring you back to life. Are you willing to give him that chance? I promise you that he will never let you down, he will never leave you, he will never lie to you, and he will never deceive you. Even if everyone around you has treated you this way, God will never harm or forsake you. You are his chosen one. You matter, and you are here for a reason and a purpose. It’s OK if you haven’t figured that purpose out yet – you have time.
Here is a beautiful and inspiring poem that I hope will give whoever is reading this article some glimmer of light to never give up, and to seek out help.
I’ve dreamed many a dream that never came true
I’ve seen them vanish at dawn
But I’ve realized enough of my dreams, thank God,
to make me want to dream on
I’ve prayed many prayers when no answer came
Though I waited patient and long
But answers have come to enough of my prayers
To make me want to keep praying on
I’ve trusted many a friend that failed
And left me to weep alone
But I’ve found enough of my friends true blue
To make me keep trusting on
I’ve sown many seed that fell by the way
For the birds to feed upon
But I’ve held enough golden sheaves in my hands
To make me keep sowing on
I’ve drained the cup of disappointment and pain
And gone many days without song
But I’ve sipped enough nectar from the roses of life
To make me want to live on.
Dealing with Depression in Yourself or Others
In conclusion, what can you do to help yourself or others? If you are trying to help someone else, then please listen to them, show them that you care, help them to get help if necessary, and be their support no matter what. You may be the only person for them to lean on, and God may be counting on you for this, so don’t let them or Him down. You are never alone in this struggle – I am here and so is God. Please realize your worth, your place in this world, and that you matter. Nothing is too horrible or too painful to be able to work through it. This may take years, or it may take months, but either way, you can do this. I will end with a few scripture verses to encourage you to never give up the fight for your life. God does not want to see you give up, and neither do I.
I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the LORD, and put their trust in him. – Psalm 40:1-3
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our LORD. – Romans 8:38-39
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. – 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
So, do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. – Isaiah 41:10
Christian Counseling for Women Struggling with Depression
The first step in overcoming depression is reaching out and getting help. As a Christian counselor, I am aware that this is the hardest part. But it will get better, and you are not alone. You are worth it, and your life will improve. Your relationships will improve, and you cannot put a price tag on them. Depression is treatable and seeking out Christian counseling will have a positive impact on you and those around you. So, what are you waiting for?
“Alina,” courtesy of Mitya Ku, flickr.com CreativeCommons License; “Atoll Island,” courtesy of Christina Spicuzza, flickr.com CreativeCommons License; “Blazing Sun,” courtesy of Stephen Bowler, flickr.com CreativeCommons License; “Alone,” courtesy of RenaudPhoto, flickr.com, CreativeCommons License