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Women and Depression
According to the National Mental Health Association (NMHA), approximately 12 million women in the United States experience clinical depression each year, and about one in every eight women can expect to develop clinical depression during her lifetime. Depression is found most frequently in women between the ages of 25 and 44.
"Depression ... I always thought that it was such an ugly word; something that I thought anybody else but me could suffer from," says Carole Brown (name changed for protection of privacy), a mom of three who was diagnosed with depression in 1999. "It coincided with my son entering the 'terrible twos.' Every time a tantrum exploded from his tiny body, I felt myself slipping, slowly at first, into a foggy haze. Every scream, every fit made me dwell on why he was acting out at me. What did I do? How did I fail him as a mom? My normally high self-esteem just plummeted. My even disposition turned to daily and evening bouts of mood swings. Most often, I could be found crying so hard that the tears would literally hurt my cheeks. I couldn't function. I suffered from extreme exhaustion, and lack of sleep. When I did have that preciously rare spare time to take a well-deserved nap, my overworked mind and body refused to give in."
Luckily, those around Carole Brown were able to recognize the warning signs and assisted in helping her get the professional help she so desperately required. Unfortunately, women can by nature hide their emotions from others. They are often afraid of the stigma and refuse to speak up about their problems, thus neglecting to get professional treatment. Yet it is imperative to seek out professional advice and treatment before a condition gets out of control.
Women are nearly twice as likely to be affected by some sort of depressive disorder/condition each year in the United States. The National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI), based in Arlington, Virginia, states that although men and women can exhibit similar signs and symptoms of depression, women report more atypical symptoms, including anxiety, somatization (the physical expression of aches and pains, but with no physical cause), expressed anger, and hostility.
"Factors that increase a woman's vulnerability to depression include biological, genetic, biochemical, and hormonal influences," explains Alice Rogan, staff psychiatrist for the Hope Program at the Menninger Clinic in Houston, Texas, and Assistant Professor in the Menninger Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences at Baylor College of Medicine.
"Hormones do play an important role. We are all familiar with the frequent inability and 'bad moods' associated with premenstrual days. The female ovaries also produce testosterone in varying quantities, and this also can contribute to mood fluctuations, increased desire, and increased aggressive feelings such as irritability and anger," says Dr. Rogan. These changes in the estrogen/progesterone balance have an enormous effect upon women who are diagnosed with depression, as they do later on in the pre-menopausal and post-menopausal stages.