How Is Depression Different, More Common Among Women

Closing the gender gap and alleviating gender discrimination that women all across the globe face on a daily basis is something that many people around the world are putting in efforts to change.

Even though, the World Economic Forum (WEF) predicts the gender gap won’t close entirely until 2186, women the world over are shining bright, basking in the glory of their achievements – big or small – to prove them wrong.

The woman of today is independent, capable and liberated, demanding and earning her well-deserved power and freedom by proving her potential time and again.

It is time to celebrate women and their achievements even as gender equality remains to be a global issue.

This year, the theme for International Women’s Day has been chosen as #BeBoldForChange.

While we celebrate the undying spirit of womanhood, it is also important to understand the problems that women face today, with women’s health being one of the biggest issues that needs emphasis.

While on the subject of women’s health, let us take this moment to acknowledge that depression is one of the most common and most petrifying problems that women go through.

For those who are unaware, women are twice as likely to develop clinical depression as men. Up to one in four women is likely to have an episode of major depression at some point in life.

Before we elaborate further, it is first important to understand what depression really is.

What is depression?

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), depression is “a common mental disorder, characterized by sadness, loss of interest or pleasure, feelings of guilt or low self-worth, disturbed sleep or appetite, feelings of tiredness, and poor concentration.”

“Depression can be long-lasting or recurrent, substantially impairing an individual’s ability to function at work or school or cope with daily life. At its most severe, depression can lead to suicide.”

It is a condition which has the power to bind you within its cocoon-like walls and can make one feel internally and mentally suffocated and confined.

How is depression different in men and women?

Certain warning signs of depression appear more often in women than in men, including seasonal affective disorder – depression in the winter months due to lower levels of sunlight. Also, women are more likely to experience the symptoms of atypical depression.

This means, that ‘normal’ symptoms of depression seen in men – like sleeping less, loss of appetite, losing weight, etc – will be reversed in women. Women with depression may, in fact, sleep more and sleep heavily, eat more (emotional eating) and put on weight.

Feelings of guilt associated with depression are also more prevalent and pronounced in women. This gender difference in rates of depression is found in most countries around the world.

Why is depression more common in women than in men?

As soon as a girl hits puberty, her risk of coming face to face with depression increases dramatically to twice that of boys.

Some experts associate this with changes in hormone levels that she faces throughout her life – puberty, pregnancy, and menopause, as well as after giving birth or experiencing a miscarriage.

Furthermore, the hormonal fluctuations that occur every month through a girl’s menstrual cycle is a big contributor towards premenstrual syndrome, or PMS, and premenstrual dysphoric disorder, or PMDD – a severe syndrome marked especially by depression, anxiety, and mood swings that occurs the week before menstruation and interferes with normal functioning of daily life.

Moreover, a woman’s chances of depression are further elevated due to reproductive, genetic, or other biological factors; interpersonal factors; and certain psychological and personality characteristics, as per the National Institutes of Health.

What are the symptoms of depression in women?

Symptoms of depression in women include:

  • Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities, including sex
  • Restlessness, irritability, or excessive crying
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness, hopelessness, pessimism
  • Sleeping too much or too little, early-morning waking
  • Appetite and/or weight loss or overeating and weight gain
  • Decreased energy, fatigue, feeling “slowed down”
  • Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
  • Persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, such as headaches, digestive disorders, and chronic pain

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