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Depression in Women

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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.

How are PMS and PMDD treated?

Many women who suffer with depression along with PMS or PMDD find improvement through exercise or meditation. For individuals with severe symptoms, medicine, individual or group psychotherapy, or stress management may be helpful.

Does depression in women occur during pregnancy?

Pregnancy has long been viewed as a period of well-being that protected women against psychiatric disorders. But depression in women occurs almost as commonly in pregnant women as it does in those who are not pregnant. The factors which increase the risk of depression in women during pregnancy are:

  • A history of depression or PMDD
  • Age at time of pregnancy -- the younger you are, the higher the risk
  • Living alone
  • Limited social support
  • Marital conflict
  • Uncertainty about the pregnancy
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