Depression is a mental health disorder often characterized by a consistently depressed mood. There are several other symptoms of depression in women, including loss of interest in hobbies, suicidal ideation, and substance abuse.
In this article, we’re exploring one of the most common questions we hear from women – what causes depression in women?
What Causes Depression in Women?
It is beyond the scope of most doctors and mental health professionals to attribute a single cause when it comes to experiences of depression. There are some professionals who are in the camp of attributing depression solely to neurological and chemical imbalances, and some who insist that relief from depression lies in making life changes. The majority of those involved in mental health tend to fall somewhere in the middle of those two extremes, with a combination of biological and lifestyle – nature and nurture – interventions being the most effective approach.
So, what causes depression in women?
Unprocessed Trauma from the Past
Surviving a traumatic experience often results in long-lasting side effects that can impede daily activities. If ignored, unprocessed trauma from the past can develop into several serious mental disorders, including depression. In fact, unprocessed trauma is the most common underlying cause of women’s depression.
Women who have survived trauma and now live with depression are particularly vulnerable to substance abuse and addiction. It’s not uncommon for women to turn to prescription drugs or alcohol as a means of numbing the pain of depression, so it’s important to seek help processing the trauma as soon as possible.
Too Many Responsibilities
There was a time when women were expected to stay at home, tending to the home and the family. While most of us are grateful that we now have the opportunity to go out and provide for ourselves through joining the workforce, there is a downside to that liberation. Rather than our money-making abilities resulting in a more egalitarian division of labor at home, it simply added to the responsibilities. Even though the finances are now equally earned, women continue to disproportionately bear the brunt of running the household and taking care of family needs.
In addition to working full-time jobs, women are often expected to complete the majority of the parenting duties, do the majority of the housework, and be the ones to take care of extended family members who are elderly or infirm. Even the strongest and most determined of women can find that their energy levels and zest for life come crashing down under the weight. When a feeling of hopelessness about meeting all of the demands creeps in, depression is usually the culprit.
The driving force behind our concept of what we should be able to accomplish as modern women often come from societal expectations. As if the weight of the responsibilities within our own little circle weren’t enough, many of us struggle with impressing the society at large. Stringent expectations for women have always existed, and, rather than utterly evolving from one historical iteration to the next, the expectations appear to be compounded. Modern women are expected to be physically fit, spend time on their beauty routines, be engaging during social interactions, be progressive parents, be smoldering lovers, and be at the top of their careers. Failing to find a way to separate ourselves from whatever the current standard of feminine success entails can result in a huge blow to self-esteem.
Even with all of our progression toward individualism, women still list the quality of relationships as a primary factor in life satisfaction. Whether it be due to our role in nurturing the next generation of life within our own bodies, or due to thousands of years of social conditioning, females tend to place more value on connections made with others than do our male counterparts. When these relationships are positive, our individual wellbeing is enhanced. When these relationships are stressful, every aspect of our lives can be negatively affected.
One factor which plays a role in why relationship quality can so drastically affect our wellbeing lies in the female tendency to view life as a whole. While men characteristically tend to be able to compartmentalize the various aspects of their lives, women tend to take the wardrobe approach. When we look at a single aspect of our lives, we are simultaneously viewing the entire landscape. This phenomenon makes it difficult to simply go to work while going through an ugly divorce, or to go about our daily chores while knowing that our loved one is lying in the hospital.
It seems to be a theme for women that the very same things which make us beautiful and unique are also those which can make our lives very difficult. When it comes to the hormones which reside at the heart of our femininity, there is no exception. The same chemicals which allow us to experience a mind-body connection and enable us to nurture new life can be the culprits when it comes to sabotaging our mental health. The days before every monthly menstruation, the years after menstruation comes to an end, and the months following childbirth can be particularly troublesome for many women. It has been found that the hormonal fluctuations experienced by women in these various stages include taking a hit to the serotonin levels that our positive moods depend on.
Symptoms of Depression in Women
Regardless of which factors are contributing to depression, it is important to get a handle on it. The first step toward treating depression is recognizing that you are suffering from it. The following are a few of the common signs of depression in women.
Loss of Interest
This category is broad, as finding that you have lost interest in previously enjoyed activities can extend from your hobbies to your love life. When depression takes hold, thoughts of engaging in things that once got your blood pumping and your creative juices flowing now hold little appeal. The tasks that you complete each day may begin to seem robotic or utterly obligatory, and you may even find that they increasingly annoy you.
Women already have the reputation of being the more emotional of the sexes. While we can take pride in our ability to wear our heart on our sleeve, we can also cross over into the territory of feeling too much of a bad thing. When we are at the bottom of the well of depression, the slightest upset can be enough to turn us into a sobbing mess.
Thoughts of Suicide
It is relatively normal for women to have fleeting thoughts of life being too difficult to want to carry on. When those thoughts become persistent, or if they are accompanied by the temptation to develop an actual plan to end your life, it is very important that you seek help, immediately. Depression is a primary factor in the rates of suicide for women.
Women may attempt to numb the uncomfortable feelings of depression with alcohol or prescription drugs. This creates a dangerous cycle in which women may become addicted to the substance. This cycle can create a co-occurring disorder in which you struggle with both depression and substance abuse. Research on women and substance abuse shows women are more likely to increase the frequency of using substances, stabilize at higher doses, and experience greater side effects of the drug.
If you believe you may experience these symptoms of depression and find yourself using substances to self-medicate, you may be interested in the benefits of exploring sustainable recovery here at Villa Kali Ma. We offer integrated treatment for co-occurring disorders among women and invite you to start your journey on the path to recovery today.