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Depression Symptoms Worsen Before Menstruation

Women Whose Symptoms Get Worse Before Periods Have Longer Bouts of Depression
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WebMD Health News

Jan. 28, 2005 -- Most women with depression get worsening symptoms prior to their periods, researchers say.

In a new study, 64% of women with major depression said their symptoms get worse five to 10 days before their period. Women whose symptoms worsened had depression for a longer duration of time than women whose depression symptoms did not change because of the onset of menstruation.

The news could help doctors evaluate, treat, and set standards for the treatment of depression. Nearly 19 million American adults have depression in any given year -- about 9.5% of the population. Women experience depression about twice as often as men, says the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

That may be partly due to factors that are unique to women. However, men are less likely to admit depression and doctors are less likely to suspect it in their male patients, says NIMH.

Depression can strike at any age. Everything from genetics to stress can play a role. According to researchers more then 20% of women will experience depression at some time during their lifetime. But the childbearing years may be a particularly vulnerable time for women.

The study appears in the January issue of Psychological Medicine. It's the work of researchers including Susan Kornstein, MD, of Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU).

Tracing Depression

The participants were 433 women with major depression. None had gone through menopause or were taking oral contraceptives. They had enrolled in a larger depression study backed by the National Institute of Mental Health that's still underway.

Premenstrual worsening of depression was reported by 64% of the women. These women also reported a longer current depressive episode -- nearly 30 months, compared with 13.5 months for women who said their depression didn't worsen before menstruation.

"Based on our findings, this type of symptom pattern is very common, especially in women who have chronic courses of depression," says Kornstein, in a news release.

Kornstein is a psychiatry and obstetrics-gynecology professor at VCU's medical school. She is also the executive director of the university's Institute for Women's Health and Mood and Disorders Institute.

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