By Linda G. Ritchie, Ph.D.
How common is depression in women? According to the national Institutes of Mental Health (HIMH), depression is not an equal opportunity affliction. Women are twice as likely to experience depression than men, regardless of their ethnic background or socioeconomic status. Interestingly, this gender difference in rates of depression is found throughout the world, not just in the United States. Twenty-five percent of women will experience sever depression at some point during their life and about half of these women will have recurrent bouts throughout their lives. It is also the number one cause of disability in women and the leading cause of attempted suicide in women.
We all experience ups and downs in life. This is normal and part of living life. However, depression is characterized by feelings that are much more intense, last longer, and interfere more intensely with day-to-day functioning and interaction with other people. It is a serious condition that can impact every aspect of your life. It can affect your family relationships, work relationships, and impact negatively on your sense of self-worth.
Classic symptoms of depression include:
1. Sad mood
2. Loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy
3. Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness
4. Concentration problems
5. Suicidal thoughts
6. Sleep disturbances
7. Appetite and weight changes
8. Lack of energy
You don’t have to have all these symptoms, but if you have several of them and have experienced them for more than two weeks, you should consider being evaluated for depression by a qualified mental health professional. An evaluation will typically take only one meeting. Depression is very treatable. Counseling has been proven to be effective for most forms of depression and even to prevent the occurrence of future depressive episodes. Antidepressant medications are also effective. There is considerable evidence that the combination of the two may be optimal for those with more serious or pervasive symptoms.
If you think that you or someone you love is suffering from depression, contact a qualified mental health professional or go to your family physician as a first step. It is very treatable and it is not necessary to suffer needlessly.
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