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What Every Woman Should Know About Depression

Women are more likely to become depressed than men. Because of this fact,  Psychology Information Online provides information about women and depression, including diagnosis, possible causes and risk factors that might be responsible for the higher rate of depression in women, and what to do if you think you are depressed.

Life is full of emotional ups and downs. But when the "down" times are long lasting or interfere with an individual's ability to function, that person may be suffering from a common, but serious psychological problem - depression  

Clinical depression affects your physical well-being, resulting in chronic fatigue, sleep problems, and changes in appetite. It affects your mood, with feelings of sadness, emptiness, hopelessness and dysphoria.  It affects the way you think, interfering with concentration and decision making. And, it affects your behavior, with increased irritability and loss of temper, social withdrawal, and a reduction in your desire to engage in pleasurable activities. Research indicates that in the United States more than 17 million people experience depression each year, and nearly two thirds do not get the help they need. Proper treatment would alleviate the symptoms in over 80 percent of the cases. Yet, because depression is often unrecognized, depressed individuals often continue to suffer needlessly.

Women are almost twice as likely as men to experience depression. Research continues to explore how this psychological problem affects women. At the same time, it is important for women to increase their awareness of what is already known about depression, so that they seek early and appropriate treatment.

What is Depression?

Depression is a "whole-body" illness, involving your body, mood, and thoughts. It affects the way you eat and sleep, the way you feel about yourself, and the way you think about things. A depressive disorder is not the same as a passing blue mood. It is not a sign of personal weakness or a condition that can be willed or wished away. People with depression cannot merely "pull themselves together" and get better. Without treatment, symptoms can last for weeks, months, or years. Appropriate treatment, however, can help most people who have depression. 

The symptoms of depression vary from person to person, and the intensity of the symptoms depends on the severity of the depression. Depression causes changes in thinking, feeling, behavior, and physical well-being.

There are three primary types of depression: Major Depression; Dysthymia; and Bipolar Depression.  In addition to these primary depressions, many people also develop a "reactive depression," which may be less severe, but still requires psychological treatment. A reactive depression occurs when you develop many of the symptoms of depression in response to the stress of a major life problem, but they are not severe enough to be considered a major depression. If these milder symptoms of depression occur without a clear life stress as the cause, and the depression has not lasted long enough to by considered dysthymia, then it is called an Unspecified Depression. Other depressions may be caused by the physiological effects of a medical condition, or by substance abuse. The specific depression label, beyond the three primary types of depression and reactive depression, will not be reviewed here.

Major depression - Also known as unipolar or clinical depression, people have some or all of the depression symptoms listed below for at least 2 weeks or as long as several months or even longer. Episodes of the illness can occur once, twice, or several times in a lifetime.

Dysthymia - The same symptoms are present. However they are usually milder, but last at least two years. People with dysthymia also can experience major depressive episodes.

Manic-depression - This is also called bipolar disorder. This type of depression is not nearly as common as other forms of depression.  It involves disruptive cycles of depressive symptoms that alternate with euphoria, irritable excitement, or mania.


The Symptoms of Depression and Manic Episodes
Risk Factors for Women
Treatment of Depression