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Depression and Women

Does women suffer from depression more often than men?

Depressed ManBoth men and women suffer from depression, but studies have shown that women suffer from depression twice as much as men do. Over the decades, many things have been blamed on a woman’s biological function, and a great deal of research has been put into this.

While a woman’s biological function does play a role in depression, other factors come into play as well. Several decades ago, women had very little control over their lives. It was standard that the man of the house — whether that was a woman’s father, husband or a grown son — made the decisions and had all of the control.

This lack of control can lead to depression, both in men and women. But since it was women who were the ones without any control, it was more often they that had to deal with the depression that this causes. Today, however, women are more in control. But there are still factors that affect them, as much as men, that lead to depression, such as relationship problems, the loss of a loved one, and financial changes.Depression, sadness and lonelyness

Furthermore, society shows us images of what women are “expected” to be, and these are things that few women in the world can live up to. This in turn affects the self-esteem, which in turn can lead to depression. Women see men’s reactions to those unrealistic images, and think that this is what they are supposed to be.

Women, who were children in the sixties, are in a real quandary today. Then, the world was changing for women. Depressed Woman - All AloneThose women were raised in homes where the old standards still applied, and then tossed into the world where all of the rules, standards, and social expectations had changed. This has contributed to even more self-esteem issues. The question “Who am I, and who am I supposed to be?” becomes very hard to answer.

So, yes, women do suffer from depression more often than men, and while hormones do play a role, there are many other aspects of life that also contribute to depression for women.

Never assume that a female is just suffering from PMS and that everything will be better in a few days!

Differences between male and female depression:
Women tend to: Men tend to:
Blame themselves Blame others
Feel sad, apathetic, and worthless Feel angry, irritable, and ego inflated
Feel anxious and scared Feel suspicious and guarded
Avoid conflicts at all costs Create conflicts
Feel slowed down and nervous Feel restless and agitated
Have trouble setting boundaries Need to feel in control at all costs
Find it easy to talk about self-doubt and despair Find it “weak” to admit self-doubt or despair
Use food, friends, and “love” to self-medicate Use alcohol, TV, sports, and sex to self-medicate
Adapted from: Male Menopause by Jed Diamond

Depression – When to Seek Help

Some level of depression is perfectly normal and does not require treatment

Sad and Depressed GirlWe all feel a little down or a little “blue” from time to time. We all have life events that will make us feel very sad as well, such as the loss of a loved one, the breakup of a relationship, financial difficulties, etc.

In most cases, however, these down periods are temporary. At what point, however, should you seek help for your depression? While people feel depression in different ways, and to different extents, there are specific warning signs that one should look for when determining whether or not they actually need treatment or not.

First, if your depression has lasted for more than a period of two weeks, you most likely need to seek treatment. Make an appointment with your medical doctor for a checkup, and discuss your feelings with him. He will most likely perform a physical exam to determine if there is a physical cause for those feelings, and he will also ask about your life events and current stressors.

Other than seeking help if the sadness lasts for more than two weeks, another sign that help is needed — immediately — is if you are having suicidal thoughts, or if you have already attempted suicide.
Do not wait to seek treatment. Contact your doctor, or call a suicide hotline for immediate help!

Feeling HopelessEven if depression is temporary, all of the other symptoms of depression are normal — except for the two discussed above. You may have a change in sleeping and eating patterns, you may feel like everything is hopeless. You may have the fatigue and the aches and the pains.

But again, if those symptoms do not go away within two weeks, or you feel suicidal, treatment is needed.

In many cases, a medical doctor can treat you for the depression, depending on the cause and the severity of your mental state. The important thing is to seek the help and to be as honest with your doctor as possible — whether your doctor is a therapist or not, he (or she) must still keep all conversations with you in confidence.

When should one seek help in cases of depression?

Robin Williams – Another Life Lost Through Mental Illness

Another Life Lost Through Mental Illness

I recently wrote about “Celebrities and Bipolar Disorder,” many of whom are also drug addicts, alcoholics and suicide victims – but the recent death of Robin Williams has brought the issue of other mental health disorders including depression – and suicide to the front of my mind once again.

Of course, you know that Robin Williams died of “asphyxiation” – notable suicide by hanging. At first we were shocked, then sad as a great talent was lost. In a few days, many people will become angry at him. Many people don’t understand depression; some don’t even believe it exists.

Robin Williams - Depression KillsRobin – and I call him that purposefully rather than the more proper journalistic reference “Mr. Williams” or simply “Williams” – has made an impact on my life and that of my children. Like many people, I felt like I knew him. I haven’t seen all of the 80 movies he was in, but my personal favorites were the movies that were not comedies. He was a gifted actor and a tremendously funny man.

I said I “felt” like I knew him – but I didn’t. My children “feel” like they knew him – but they didn’t. I don’t know much about his childhood – other than that he was raised in a family where, though there was probably plenty of money, he spent most of his time with nannies or alone. He obviously had a brain that never quit – which leads me to believe he may have had ADHD, he certainly had troubles with substance abuse and he had periods of severe depression, one of which led to his death.

People are already questioning why such a talented man – who had given so much – would “go and do something like that.” Many of those people will feel like he was selfish – as many people feel like suicide is the ultimate in narcissism. Under all that hilarity, under all that spectacle, under all that talent, was a seriously sad man.

Never mind what we don’t know about his childhood, over the course of his life he had great success and tremendous loss, with the making of fortune and fame and the loss of loved ones and money. He ultimately chose to end the pain himself.

Metally Ill - Robin WilliamsDepression is not something that can be shared and Robin was a “smiler.” Even in my life, though I am not a “smiler” – when I am having great difficulty, I do not contact the people who matter. I do not call my friends; I do not call my family; I sit in my difficulties alone.

Like many comedians, Robin learned to be funny to cover pain and to cover loneliness – and to get attention that he craved. Mental illness is difficult to understand and even though we mourn his loss – we should reflect on who in our lives might be feeling the same pain.

Maybe – likely not, but maybe, if he had the kind of support he needed, if he had not felt like he always needed to be “on” he would not have felt the despair so strongly. Maybe if mental illness and substance abuse weren’t still stigmatized, maybe he could have gotten the help he needed.

Maybe, but maybe not.

Another famous actor – once said in a famous movie – “Momma says that dyin’ is a part of livin’… I wish that it wasn’t.” Unfortunately, some people feel they must choose to die early. Robin did.

Melissa Lind

Another famous actor died because of mental illness

Getting Out of Depression

Some tips to get you out of depression

Major depression is the third most common mental disorder in the US.  Nearly 7 percent of the US population is affected in any one year.  Incidentally, if you are keeping track, the two most common mental disorders are Anxiety disorders and Phobia disorders, including Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Major Depression, also called Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) has an average onset of 32 years of age and is more common in women than in men.  It is also called “unipolar depression” by those who are familiar with Bipolar disorder.  It may include a subset of depressive disorders such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which affects people yearly – usually in the winter and Dysthymic Disorder, which is a less severe form of depression.

In order to be diagnosed with Major Depression, a person must meet the DSM criteria including at least five of the following for at least two weeks:
•    Depressed mood most of the day
•    Diminished interest in all or most activities
•    Significant, unintentional weight loss or gain
•    Insomnia or sleeping too much
•    Agitation or psychomotor retardation (slow movement) noticeable by others
•    Fatigue
•    Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
•    Diminished ability to think or indecisiveness
•    Suicidal thoughts

In some cases, depression can be relieved by changes in lifestyle or with psychotherapy, but in severe cases – medication may be warranted.  We are fortunate today in that there are a number of effective medications that have fewer side effects than previous treatments, and the category continues to evolve.

Even with medication – that may not begin working for at least several weeks – some lifestyle changes, and habits may help a person “emerge” from their depression and manage symptoms in the future.

Major DepressionLifestyle changes are difficult, particularly when depressed, but the effort it takes to “soldier through” is worth it in the end.  These tips for helping with depression are not easy – especially when you do not have any energy and don’t feel like getting up, but even though they may not provide a cure – they almost always provide some help.

  1. Get up and move – this is the hardest for most people to do.  It may take a tremendous amount of efforts but even simply getting off the couch or out of bed and walking around the house will help.  Getting up and moving around will increase your blood flow and heart rate will help increase blood flow to your brain and may convince your body that “hibernation” is over.
  2. Get dressed – you may have been wearing the same clothes for many days.  Changing into a “daytime” outfit can help regulate your time clock and may help you feel like you can accomplish something.  If you wear makeup or fix your hair, do so – and by all means, take a shower.
  3. Get out in the sun – don’t stay long enough to get a sunburn but studies have shown that bright light helps your brain wake up.  It resets your internal clock by adjusting your melatonin levels (a hormone responsible for inducing sleep).  It also triggers a “springtime” effect – that again tells your brain and body that winter is over, and it is time to come out of hibernation.
  4. Talk to a friend – making a phone call may not be tops on your mind, but even a wordless chat can help you feel like someone else is aware of your existence.
  5. Watch something enjoyable – even if you don’t want to enjoy anything, do something that would normally make you happy.  Just a little bit of happiness peeking through can go a long way.
  6. Go to bed and get out of bed at normal hours – sleep patterns are often destroyed by depression.  Reestablishing those normal patterns will help reset your internal clock to a natural level.
  7. Don’t take naps – again with both the normal sleeping hours and with the “getting up.”  Reinforcing physiologic habits will help establish normal brain functioning.
  8. Eat healthily – you may want to eat everything, nothing, or only certain foods.  Likely, no matter how much or how little you are eating, you are deficient in some of the necessary vitamins and nutrients – so eating a healthy diet and taking a multivitamin mineral supplement is a good idea.  B vitamins are especially helpful to restore nerve cell functioning, C and E are useful for combating inflammation that can cause sluggishness, D vitamins are useful to aid in the “sunlight” phenomenon discussed before, Calcium and Magnesium are good for the brain cells which are malfunctioning.

Most people who are depressed will find a lot of these activities difficult – and you may only be able to do one or two a day.  None of this is meant to be insulting, but there is science behind all of it – and others have been through it before.
With the help from the medication and the lifestyle adjustments – you will feel like you are coming out of the fog – and be able to do all of them – or sometimes, choose not to.  Choosing not to do something is different than feeling like you are unable to do something – and you want to have control of your life.

– Melissa Lind