There are several signs that will alert you to the presence of depression in women. However, there are also several different types of depression and other factors that might make it difficult to identify what you’re feeling and why.
In this article, we’re exploring one of the most common questions we hear – what are the signs and symptoms of depression in women?
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Depression in Women?
There is a stark difference between being sad and being depressed. We all have days that are hard, days when we want to stay in bed all day, or even cry ourselves to sleep. Life can be tough. But these momentary feelings of doom or sadness are not always depression. They are temporary. Joy eventually comes and things seem to find their balance once again.
Depression, though? It is not so easy. It is something that needs much more attention and can have a much bigger impact on your life. And the fact that more than twice as many women experience depression as men is something one should keep an eye out for.
So, what are the signs and symptoms of depression in women?
Symptoms of Depression: Gender Differences
There are signs and symptoms of depression as it affects women that vary from the general signs and symptoms of men. Women tend to be more emotional, internalize their feelings, and may try to continue moving through the motions of life as a way to not show weakness. Of course, women also have times in their lives when there is an influx in hormones – such as menstruation, pregnancy, childbirth, and menopause – all factors that may contribute to depression.
Major depressive Disorder is a mental illness that is diagnosed very frequently. The DSM-5 lists diagnostic criteria that must be met for a mental health professional to diagnose someone with this disorder. Five of the symptoms below must be experienced the majority of the time over a two-week period.
Common signs and symptoms of depression according to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America (ADAA) are:
- Feelings of sadness, low mood, and loss of interest in usual activities
- Change in appetite, losing or gaining weight
- Sleeping too much or dealing with insomnia
- Fatigue and low energy on most days
- Feelings of worthlessness, guilt, and hopelessness
- An inability to focus and concentrate that may interfere with daily tasks at home, work, or school
- Movements that are unusually slow or agitated, as noticed by someone else
- Thinking about death and dying; suicidal ideation or suicide attempts
Signs of Depression in Women: What Does it Look Like from the Outside?
Depression looks different for everyone. We all have our own ways of dealing with the symptoms – and how they manifest in our lives. So, despite the guidelines listed above, there is no list of signs to look out for if you are wondering if a woman in your life is struggling with depression.
Paying attention to the symptoms and diagnostic criteria above can give you an idea of what to look for. Though how it looks is going to be different for everyone.
Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder
Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) is similar to but more severe than, PMS. Along with a monthly change in hormones, PMDD can present the symptoms of depression – lasting a couple of weeks each month, starting about a week before the period comes.
Someone with PMDD experiences depressive symptoms in addition to the following:
- Mood swings
- Out-of-control feelings
- Sensitive emotions
- Elevated physical symptoms of PMS
A lot of hormonal changes take place with pregnancy – and after. It is normal to feel hypersensitive and be on a temporary emotional roller coaster. But when the feelings of depression are persistent and extreme, it could be postpartum depression. In fact, according to the ADAA, about 13% of women may experience postpartum depression.
Someone with this condition has depression symptoms in addition to:
- Panic attacks
- Feelings of guilt or shame
- Feelings of being a bad mother
- Lots of crying for no reason
- Mood swings
- Difficulty bonding with the baby
- Feelings of wanting to hurt oneself or the baby
Transitioning to menopause can also be a tough time for women. There are, again, a lot of hormonal changes that take place. This time of change is known as perimenopause. And while there are many symptoms of this change of life condition, such as:
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Weight gain
- Mood swings
- Low bone density
- A drop in cholesterol
- Menstruation irregularities
Depression is not one of them. If the symptoms of depression are experienced, it is not a normal part of going into menopause – and treatment should be sought.
Depression in Women: Things You Should Know
Just to clear the air when it comes to depression, there are a few things you should know.
- Depression is real and should not be dismissed.
- You can’t just make yourself be happy to overcome depression.
- Depression can physically hurt your body. It’s not just a mental thing.
- Depression will affect each woman differently.
- You can treat – and beat – depression.
Depression Treatment: Address Co-Occurring Disorders
Women who are dealing with depression may also be dealing with something else, too. Depression doesn’t often walk alone. Alongside depression, you may experience an anxiety disorder, eating disorder, or substance abuse disorder.
It is hard to determine which condition came first, since depression may lead someone to use a substance to self-medicate. However, alcohol and other substances are also known to induce depression. Despite the order in which the disorders developed, treating depression and co-occurring disorders need to be addressed at the same time.
It is time to find healing within the whole body. Major depression is not something anyone wants to tackle alone. And, when it is combined with substance use, the treatment is even more delicate. Remember that depression affects women differently than men and should be treated differently, too.
If you find yourself drinking more or abusing other substances as a way to self-medicate uncomfortable feelings associated with depression, consider reaching out for help. Discover the benefits of joining a holistic treatment program for women today.