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Depression in Women

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What increases the chances of depression in women?

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 medications

Women can also get postpartum depression after the birth of a baby. Some people get seasonal affective disorder in the winter. Depression is one part of bipolar disorder.

Is depression hereditary?

Depression can run in families. When it does, it generally starts between the ages of 15 and 30. A family link to depression is much more common in women.

How does depression in women differ from depression in men?

Depression in women differs from depression in men in several ways:

  • Depression in women may occur earlier, last longer, be more likely to recur, be more likely to be associated with stressful life events, and be more sensitive to seasonal changes.
  • Women are more likely to experience guilty feelings and attempt suicide, although they actually commit suicide less often than men.
  • Depression in women is more likely to be associated with anxiety disorders, especially panic and phobic symptoms, and eating disorders.
  • Depressed women are more likely to abuse alcohol and other drugs.

 

How are PMS and PMDD related to depression in women?

As many as three out of every four menstruating women experience premenstrual syndrome or PMS. PMS is a disorder characterized by emotional and physical symptoms that fluctuate in intensity from one menstrual cycle to the next. Women in their 20s or 30s are usually affected.

About 3% to 5% of menstruating women experience premenstrual dysphoric disorder, or PMDD. PMDD is a severe form of PMS, marked by highly emotional and physical symptoms that usually become more severe seven to 10 days before the onset of menstruation.

In the last decade, these conditions have become recognized as important causes of discomfort and behavioral change in women. While the precise link between PMS, PMDD, and depression is still unclear, chemical changes in the brain and fluctuating hormone levels are both thought to be contributing factors.

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