According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), up to one in 10 people in the U.S. have depression. Women are twice as likely as men to have depression (one in five women do), but the sexes do not exhibit the same symptoms. The reason behind this is not known but is likely a mix of genetics, biology, psychology and social factors.
Women with depression often experience symptoms like eating too much or too little, loss of interest in daily life, feeling down on themselves and having trouble concentrating. These are all symptoms that are expressed by both men and women who have depression. There are several others, like oversleeping, weight and appetite increases, anxiety and physical symptoms with no physical cause that are more common in women with various forms of depression.
Menstruation and depression
Some women experience s severe premenstrual syndrome called premenstrual dysphoric disorder. These women tend to have very noticeable mood swings for up to a week before their periods that include feelings of anxiety, irritability, and depression. While PMDD is not always caused by hormone changes, it is caused by the way the woman’s body reacts to the changes. Women who have had previous mood disorders are especially likely to have this disorder.
Pregnancy and depression
Up to 10 percent of pregnant women experience depression while they are pregnant. Around 15 percent of women who have just had a baby experience post-partum depression. There is also a term called “post-partum blues” that refers to a short period of mood symptoms that directly follows childbirth. Nearly 80 percent of women who have given birth experience post-partum blues. If a woman has had post-partum depression she is 70 percent likely to have a similar experience on any future pregnancies.
Differences in treatment
According to NAMI, there is no scientific proof of major differences in response to medication, therapy and other depression treatments between the sexes. Psychotherapy, antidepressant medicines, bright light therapy and alternative treatments like acupuncture and dietary supplements are used to treat both men and women.
The only time treatment is different is when a woman is pregnant. Most often a doctor will suggest that antidepressant medications are not an option as they may harm the fetus, but each individual has different needs and should work with their doctor to discuss the best plan of treatment for them.