Everyone around you tells you to “snap out of it,” but you still feel sad or hopeless. Depression isn’t a mood; it’s a disease, and it affects women more often than men. If you’re a girl or woman and you think you may be depressed, the expert psychotherapists and counselors at the Soho Center For Mental Health Counseling & Clinical Supervision in Greenwich Village, New York City, can help.
What depression is … and isn’t
Depression is more than a fleeting feeling of sadness or disappointment. It’s a mental illness that has genetic, biological, psychological, and environmental causes. Depression is marked by the persistent presence of troubling emotional symptoms such as:
- Feeling empty or lost
- Loss of pleasure (including sex)
- Excessive crying or moodiness
- Feeling hopeless or worthless
- Thinking about or attempting suicide
If you’re depressed, you may also have chronic physical symptoms, including:
- Sleeping too much
- Low energy
- Difficulty concentrating
- Memory problems
- Loss of appetite
- Headaches or digestive problems
The role of hormones
Before boys and girls hit puberty, their rates of depression are about the same. After adolescence, though — with its influx of hormones — girls are affected about twice as often as boys. The hormonal fluctuations that women undergo throughout their life cycle are thought to be at the root of many cases of depression in women.
Depression in women often corresponds directly to times of hormonal changes, such as:
- Menstruation (premenstrual syndrome or premenstrual dysphoric disorder)
- Pregnancy (perinatal depression)
- After giving birth (postpartum depression)
- Perimenopause (period before menopause)
- Menopause (the permanent cessation of menstruation)
Although hormonal fluctuations exert a powerful effect on brain chemistry and mood, not every woman experiences depression during her lifetime. Other factors also come into play, and some of them are unique to, or more likely to affect, women rather than men.
Though the gender gap in depression may be a new concept to you, you’re probably familiar with the gender gap in wages. A recent study found that when women earn the same as their male counterparts, their rates of depression are about the same as men’s, but when women earn less than their male counterparts, women experience rates of depression more than twice those of men.
The relationship between the gender pay gap and the gender depression gap holds even when women have high incomes. The researchers propose that some women may associate their lesser pay with lesser worth, rather than institutionalized sexism.
Other life stressors
Women are also more likely than men to be exposed to extreme life stressors that trigger depression. For instance, women are more likely than men to experience childhood sexual abuse, sexual abuse or assault as an adult, and domestic violence. Traumatic and violent events release stress hormones and can change the way your brain functions.
Women are also more likely to have the majority or sole responsibility for childcare. They may be in charge of taking care of their elderly or aging parents, either separately or at the same time that they’re raising their kids. Single mothers with young children are a significantly greater risk for depression than other populations.
If you feel overwhelmed by life, or experience persistent sadness, hopelessness, or other symptoms of depression, you can find relief. Call us today to speak to our understanding and knowledgeable counselors, or book your appointment online.