Although depression affects both men and women some depressions only affect women because of their association with childbirth, menstruation, menopause and other hormonal imbalances. This Sharepost focuses on just a few of the reasons for woman-only depressions.
In the lead up to menstruation many women feel irritable, tired and run down. Premenstrual syndrome describes the emotions, headaches, stomach distension and breast tenderness sometimes associated with this time of the month. Symptoms of depression do vary in their severity but usually depression lifts around a week after the first day of menstruation.
Around five percent of women experience a condition known as premenstrual dysphoric disorder. This particular disorder mainly affects women in the 30-45 age range, is frequently worse following childbirth, and may not end until the menopause. High levels of anxiety and a marked lowering of moods tend to develop during most menstrual cycles. As with symptoms of dysphoria, the woman feels emotionally drained, easily fatigued but quickly angered and irritated.
Although the average age of onset of the menopause is 51, the age range is anywhere between 42-58 years of age. The menopause affects women very differently with some hardly noticing changes whilst others all too aware of them. Hot flushes are often associated with menopause but some of the symptoms of depression are common. Again, irritability and low mood are some of the most commonly reported symptoms and these are associated with the reduction of estrogen. In symptom terms it is a state broadly similar to premenstrual syndrome or premenstrual dysphoric disorder. Estrogen supplements can have some positive effects including less disrupted sleep, better concentration, higher energy levels, decreased anxiety and decreased levels of despondency.
We can't address the issue of depression in women without at least considering the effects of the contraceptive pill. The pill has been around for some considerable time yet its effect on mood is really only just being fully recognized. The pill may influence mood in various ways. For example it reduces the levels of tryptophan in the body and it is tryptophan that helps to produce serotonin. Women who take first-generation (trycylic) antidepressants could find themselves with excessive levels of antidepressant in their blood stream.
Newer contraceptives contain less in the way of hormones but they still have the potential to induce depression in women who suffer with premenstrual syndrome or premenstrual dysphoric disorder. Effectively this is a cautionary message to women who experience these conditions but who choose to take oral contraception.