You’re feeling down, you can’t sleep at night or concentrate at work—and that headache just won’t go away. Sure, you could chalk these symptoms up to your busy life, but you may actually be depressed. Almost twice as many women as men develop depression, and they usually first experience the condition in their 20s or 30s. Like any medical illness, depression requires treatment.
While hormones may deserve some of the blame, many other factors can trigger depression:
- Pregnancy and birth. Up to 18 percent of new moms suffer postpartum depression.
- Inequality. Women make less money than men and hold fewer positions of power.
- Work and home duties. The constant juggling can be overwhelming.
- Physical or sexual abuse. Women who were emotionally, physically or sexually abused as children are more likely to experience depression than those who weren’t.
Depression can lead to chronic aches, restlessness and overeating or loss of appetite. One Yale University researcher has come up with the acronym SAD FACES to remember the symptoms in women:
Anhedonia, or loss of joy for life
Depressed mood most of the time
Fatigue or loss of energy
Esteem lowered or guilt
Suicidal thoughts or repeated thoughts of death
If you experience several of these symptoms every day for at least two weeks, talk with your healthcare provider. He or she can help you decide what treatment may be best for you. The goal? To bring back the old you. This can involve:
- A good support base. Being able to talk with your spouse or partner, a family member, a close friend, a spiritual leader or a co-worker can really help. You can also try finding a support group that deals with the specific cause of your depression. For example, if your depression was spurred by the recent death of a loved one, seek out a local bereavement group. Ask your healthcare provider if he or she can recommend one.
- Antidepressants. Women may especially benefit from drugs called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), such as Prozac or Zoloft. Some research has shown that women’s brains make less of the mood-boosting substance serotonin; SSRIs can help you make more. If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, talk with your healthcare provider about your options.
- Talk therapy. A therapist can help you change behavior or perceptions that may be contributing to your depression.