Women face a unique combination of risk factors for depression. But it's a highly treatable condition.
Depression is more than just a passing mood or the occasional blues. It's a serious medical illness that occurs twice as often in women as it does in men.
According to Mental Health America (MHA), about 12 million women in the U.S. experience depression in any given year. And about 1 in 8 women will develop it during her lifetime.
Although depression can be a frightening and lonely condition, it is also a very treatable one. The keys are knowing that there is a problem and being willing to ask for help.
It's not completely clear why depression is more common in women. But some contributing factors may include:
Biological differences. From menstrual cycles to childbirth to menopause, women face a variety of hormonal fluctuations and reproductive and physical changes over their lifetimes that may contribute to depression.
Social issues. Women are more likely to live in poverty, according to MHA. In addition, they are more likely to have been abused physically or sexually in childhood, which could lead to depression. And they may experience gender discrimination, which can affect mental health.
Work and family demands. For some women, responsibilities such as caring for children and aging parents while working full time may contribute to stress and depression.
Less than half of women with depression seek help for their illness, according to MHA.
That's unfortunate, because depression—even severe depression—is highly treatable. The first step is to talk with your doctor. Certain medical conditions, such as a thyroid disorder, can cause symptoms similar to depression. A visit with your doctor and lab tests can help determine your diagnosis.
If you are experiencing depression, your doctor might refer you to a mental health specialist for therapy or prescribe an antidepressant medication. There are a number of different types of antidepressants available. You may need to try more than one to see what works for you. For some people, a combination of therapy and medication works best.
Could it be depression? Take this quick assessment and share the results with your doctor.