Depression is a debilitating mental health disorder known to be made worse by substance use and addiction. Women are twice as likely as men to experience a form of clinical depression during their lifetime. What are the factors that cause higher rates of depression? Why is depression more common for women?
Can Hormones Influence Depression?
According to research published in the Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience, the female hormones of estrogen and progesterone are linked with more significant rates of depression in women than men. The way these hormones influence the neurotransmitters in the brain causes depression to occur at twice the proportion in women than in men.
This data is also demonstrated in the hormonal events which occur in the female body from puberty through menopause. Depression is significantly more common concerning events such as menstrual cycles, pregnancy, and menopause. All of these forms of depression are unique to women.
Prenatal and Postpartum Depression
The extreme hormonal and other changes in a woman’s body and schedule during these events can leave a woman physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted, often causing her to have the “baby blues.” This postpartum period usually lasts approximately two weeks, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
More serious is perinatal depression, which refers to the depression that occurs during pregnancy or following pregnancy. This particular type of depression is an actual mood disorder that is debilitating, affecting not only mood but fatigue, anxiety, sadness, and more, making it difficult for a mother to function.
Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD)
Most women experience premenstrual syndrome or PMS, a mild moodiness or irritability that occurs in the weeks leading up to menstruation. An even more severe condition is premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), most often characterized by extreme irritability, anger, moodiness, appetite changes, bloating, breast tenderness, joint or muscle pain, and even suicidality.
When a woman is transitioning into menopause, which can take years, she experiences symptoms such as sleep disruption, mood swings, hot flashes, and abnormal periods. When these symptoms are accompanied by anxiety, irritability, sadness, and a lack of pleasure in everyday things, it is known as perimenopausal depression.
Environmental Factors That Influence Depression
Women also experience higher rates of certain types of environmental factors that influence depression, including:
- Trauma and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Physical, emotional, sexual, and other forms of abuse
- Relationship issues, including breakups or divorce
These factors contribute to significantly higher rates of depression in women than they typically do in men. Even though environmental factors cause these types of depression, a woman’s other factors, such as genetics or hormonal issues, can cause long-term depression in women.
Depression Correlated With Substance Abuse
Substance Abuse also causes higher rates of depression in women. Whether this has to do with female hormones or other unique circumstances, it is essential to watch for depression in women who suffer from addiction. The symptoms of depression also tend to be more extreme for women who abuse substances, including a higher rate of suicidality.
Getting Help for Depression
Whether a woman is suffering from Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), depression caused by bipolar disorder, or one of the types of depression listed above that are unique to women, finding treatment is essential.
Symptoms in some forms of depression may present mild to moderate but can switch to severe like a light switch. Severe depression can lead to suicidality or even suicide and is unfortunately often unpredictable. Given the life-threatening circumstances that come with depression, accessing treatment through a licensed psychiatrist is necessary and can be life-saving.
The Importance of Treating Gender-Specific Depression
When women experience gender-specific events such as menstrual cycles, pregnancy, and menopause, it is critical to watch for symptoms of depression. When symptoms last longer than two weeks, it is time to seek help, as things can often snowball out of control in a hurry.
Assessing hormones and other factors for women with depression symptoms is also unique to gender and necessary in determining the course of treatment. Women must be evaluated for depression upon entering a facility and receiving addiction treatment.
Unfortunately, there is not enough known as to how much hormones may influence the severity of depression, and depression affects each woman differently. Adding in environmental factors contributes another component of uncertainty surrounding the severity of symptoms. Finally, as depression symptoms may ebb and flow and can unexpectedly change to suicidal thoughts and behaviors, each woman in treatment for addiction should be watched particularly carefully and offered psychiatric care throughout the treatment process.
Why is depression more common for women? Hormones and the severe fluctuations in hormones that are caused by experiences unique to women account for much of the difference. Environmental factors that are experienced at higher rates than men can also influence depression in women. At The Ho Tai Way – Recovery For Women, we treat women with addiction and co-occurring mental health or mood disorders such as depression. We are a trauma-informed facility that offers care-based therapy regarding environmental circumstances as well as hormonal and other factors. All of our patients are assessed by a medical doctor within 24 hours of admission and supervised by a psychiatrist throughout the duration of the treatment process. We understand that a woman's unique physical and emotional makeup can lead to higher rates of depression. Contact The Ho Tai Way at (714) 581-3974 to learn more about our gender-specific treatment for addiction and co-occurring depression.