Effects of Depression in Women (1)


Depression is not "one size fits all," particularly when it comes to the genders. Not only are women more prone to depression than men, but the causes of female depression and even the pattern of symptoms are often different.

Many factors contribute to the unique picture of depression in women—from reproductive hormones to social pressures to the female response to stress. Learning about these factors can help you minimize your risk of depression and treat it more effectively.

Signs and symptoms of depression in women

The symptoms of depression in women are the same as those for major depression. Common complaints include: Depressed mood, loss of interest or pleasure in activities you used to enjoy, feelings of guilt, hopelessness and worthlessness, suicidal thoughts or recurrent thoughts of death, sleep disturbance (sleeping more or sleeping less), appetite and weight changes, difficulty concentrating and lack of energy and fatigue


Biological causes of depression in women

According to a medical practitioner, Dr Tewafeu Denis the depression can be caused by the following factors;

 Premenstrual problems – Hormonal fluctuations during the menstrual cycle can cause the familiar symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), such as bloating, irritability, fatigue, and emotional reactivity. For many women, PMS is mild. But for some women, symptoms are severe enough to disrupt their lives and a diagnosis of premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) is made.

Pregnancy and infertility – The many hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy can contribute to depression, particularly in women already at high risk. Other issues relating to pregnancy such as miscarriage, unwanted pregnancy, and infertility can also play a role in depression.

Postpartum depression – Many new mothers experience the “baby blues.” This is a normal reaction that tends to subside within a few weeks. However, some women experience severe, lasting depression. This condition is known as postpartum depression. Postpartum depression is believed to be influenced, at least in part, by hormonal fluctuPerimenopause and menopause – Women may be at increased risk for depression during perimenopause, the stage leading to menopause when reproductive hormones rapidly fluctuate. Women with past histories of depression are at an increased risk of depression during menopause as well.

Social and cultural causes of depression in women

Role strain – Women often suffer from role strain over conflicting and overwhelming responsibilities in their life. The more roles a woman is expected to play (mother, wife, working woman), the more vulnerable she is to role strain and subsequent stress and depression. Depression is more common in women who receive little help with housework and child care. Single mothers are particularly at risk. Research indicates that single mothers are three times more likely than married mothers to experience an episode of major depression.

Unequal power and status – Women’s relative lack of power and status in our society may lead to feelings of helplessness. This sense of helplessness puts women at greater risk for depression.

These feelings may be provoked by discrimination in the workplace leading to underemployment or unemployment. Low socioeconomic status is a risk factor for major depression. Another contributing factor is society’s emphasis on youth, beauty, and thinness in women, traits which to a large extent are out of their control.

Sexual and physical abuse – Sexual and physical abuse may play a role in depression in women. Girls are much more likely to be sexually abused than boys, and researchers have found that sexual abuse in childhood puts one at increased risk for depression in adulthood. Higher rates of depression are also found among victims of rape, a crime almost exclusively committed against women. Other common forms of abuse, including physical abuse and sexual harassment, may also contribute to depression.

Relationship dissatisfaction – While rates of depression are lower for the married than for the single and divorced, the benefits of marriage and its general contribution to well-being are greater for men than for women. Furthermore, the benefits disappear entirely for women whose marital satisfaction is low. Lack of intimacy and marital strife are linked to depression in women.

Poverty – Poverty is more common among women than men. Single mothers have the highest rates of poverty across all demographic groups. Poverty is a severe, chronic stressor than can lead to depression.

Psychological causes of depression in women

Coping mechanisms – Women are more likely to ruminate when they are depressed. This includes crying to relieve emotional tension, trying to figure out why you’re depressed, and talking to your friends about your depression. However, rumination has been found to maintain depression and even make it worse. Men, on the other hand, tend to distract themselves when they are depressed. Unlike rumination, distraction can reduce depression.

Stress response – Some studies show that women are more likely than men to develop depression under lower levels of stress. Furthermore, the female physiological response to stress is different. Women produce more stress hormones than men do, and the female sex hormone progesterone prevents the stress hormone system from turning itself off as it does in men.

Puberty and body image – The gender difference in depression begins in adolescence. The emergence of sex differences during puberty likely plays a role. Some researchers point to body dissatisfaction, which increases in girls during the sexual development of puberty. Body image is closely linked to self-esteem in women, and low self-esteem is a risk factor for depression.

Risk factors for depression in women

There are a number of different, yet interrelated, risk factors for depression in women. Women of lower socioeconomic status are more likely to develop depression. This makes sense considering that the more sources of stress in a woman’s life, the more likely she is to develop depression. Women of low socioeconomic status are likely to struggle with financial problems, issues of unemployment or underemployment, discrimination, lack of education, and single parenthood. Additional risk factors include marital conflict and dissatisfaction, past sexual or physical abuse, and role strain

By Rosaline Obah

Rosaline Obah is a graduate from the University of Buea with a Bsc. In Journalism and Mass Communication, and women and Gender Studies. Presently Communication Secretary for the PCC in the Northwest Region, she has taken a profound interest in gender issues and presently writes a column on BamendaOnline.net (Feminine line). She has also been contributing similar articles to The Eden Newspaper. Obah is currently the PRO of the Northwest Chapter of the Cameroon Association of English Speaking Journalists (CAMASEJ).


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