Women and Depression

Medical Author: Roxanne Dryden-Edwards, MD
Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

Depression is a complex matter. In recent years, with burgeoning research progress, we are finding out that depression is much more common than many of us thought. At least 15% (and likely more) of women take an antidepressant during their lifetime. Depression is much more common in women than in men, but the reason for this female predominance is unclear.

Besides the fact that woman suffer from depression more often than men, women tend to develop depression at an earlier age and have depressive episodes that last longer and tend to recur more often. Women may more often have a seasonal pattern to depression, as well as symptoms of atypical depression (such as eating or sleeping too much, carbohydrate craving, weight gain, mood worsening in the evenings, and trouble getting to sleep). Regardless of gender, many depression sufferers may think they can "work through" depression on their own and that a mental-health professional cannot be of help. They may also misunderstand the low risk associated with medication treatment of depression. These mistaken beliefs are, unfortunately, common. Medications for depression may sometimes have annoying side effects, such as agitation, insomnia, drowsiness, or decreased sexual drive or performance, but serious reactions are extremely unusual. Women with clinical depression are suffering. Such bothersome, non-life-threatening side effects, which may lessen with time anyway, are likely to be much more tolerable than untreated depression for many women. Time and again, studies have shown that either counseling or medication therapy, or optimally both together, are extremely effective in safely relieving depression in both women and men.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 12/1/2014

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