"Could you be depressed and not know it?" This sounds like a ridiculous
question. After all, wouldn't you know if you were depressed? Possibly
not. Depression can take hold gradually, without a person realizing that
depressive thoughts and feelings are increasingly dominating her perspective -
and her life.
Many people assume that depression is easily identifiable, manifesting
itself as persistent sadness that doesn't lift. In fact, symptoms of depression
can take a variety of forms. Chances are that if you are reading this article,
you have the feeling that something isn't quite right. You may find that you
are tired all the time, and all you want to do is sleep. Depression can also
trigger insomnia, forgetfulness, and an inability to take pleasure in normal
activities. According to Eve Wood, MD, clinical associate professor of medicine
at the University of Arizona, and author of 10 Steps to Take Charge of Your
Emotional Life, "Women often say, 'I'm not depressed; I just don't care',
but that indifference can signal depression." It turns out that excessive
fatigue, insomnia, and joylessness can all be symptoms of depression.
Antidepressants, especially when combined with talk therapy, generally help people recover from depression. Symptoms begin to improve within weeks for the majority of people taking antidepressants. And people who take antidepressants long-term -- up to 36 months -- have a relapse rate of only 18% compared to 40% for those who do not.
But if they work so well, why do so many people stop taking antidepressants within a few weeks of starting them? Or skip doses when they start to feel better?
As subtle and confusing as signs of depression can sometimes be, it's
important to remember that depression is a serious illness that can cramp
lives, cast a shadow over families, and even lead to suicide. A growing body of
research has documented the serious and chronic effects of depression on the
human brain - effects that can make a person susceptible to future incidents of
According to the American Psychological Association, women are twice as
likely as men to experience depression or dysthymia (persistent low-level
depression), and misdiagnosis of depression in women is high. The good news is
that depression can be effectively treated. If you suspect that you or someone
you know is depressed, you've come to the right place. WebMD can help you learn
more about depression and what you can do about it.
Symptoms of Depression in Women
* Changes in weight, sleep or appetite: These signs of depression can
be confusing because depending on the individual, they can take very different
forms. Some depressed women want to sleep all the time, for example, while
others may experience insomnia.
* Physical symptoms of depression that won't go away, like fatigue,
headaches, back aches, digestive disorders, chronic pain, or menstrual
* Agitation, irritability
* Forgetfulness or difficulty concentrating
* Low sex drive
* Pessimistic or hopeless outlook on life: While there are
plenty of reasons to be pessimistic about the future, a depressed person is
more apt to dwell on negative events and be unable to find anything to be happy
* Feelings of guilt or helplessness
* General apathy and lack of interest or pleasure in customary
* Thoughts of suicide
Experts say that certain behaviors can also be a sign of underlying
depression. "Women often engage in behaviors that signal "masked
depression," says psychologist Lara Honos-Webb, PhD, author of Listening
to Depression. Compulsive shopping, working, eating, or drinking alcohol
can be signs of depression -- particularly when a woman feels empty or anxious
when she's not participating in these activities.