Dr. MJ Bazos MD,
Is depression common in women?
Yes. According to the National
Institute of Mental Health, more than 17 million people in the United States --
1 in 10 adults -- experience depression each year. Women are twice as likely as
men to experience depression. About 20% of women experience depression at least
once during their lifetime.
Doctors continue to
learn about how women are affected by depression, but there are some common
symptoms in men and women. If you're depressed, you may have some of these
symptoms nearly every day, all day, for 2 weeks or longer:
- Feeling sad or crying a lot
- Losing interest or pleasure in things you used to
enjoy (including sex)
- Feeling guilty, hopeless or worthless
- Thinking about death or suicide
- Sleeping too much, or not being able to go to
sleep or stay asleep
- Losing your appetite and losing weight (or eating
too much and gaining weight)
- Feeling very tired or slowed down
- Having trouble paying attention and making
- Having aches and pains that don't get better with
Depression seems to be
related to a chemical imbalance in the brain that makes it hard for the cells to
communicate with one another. Stressful life events, such as the death of a
loved one, a divorce or moving (such as leaving home to go to college), may also
lead to depression.
premenstrual syndrome (PMS) are more likely to become depressed. Depression is
more common a week before a woman's period and in the weeks after a woman gives
birth(this is called postpartum depression).
How is depression
Depression can be treated
with counseling, medicine or both. It's also important to take good care of
yourself, to exercise regularly and to eat healthy foods. See the list of dos
and don'ts later in this handout. Counseling alone may help if the depression
medicines are very effective in treating depression. There are many different
kinds of antidepressants. Your doctor will decide which one is right for you.
Medicine alone or medicine with counseling can help most women who have
Some dos and don'ts
when you're depressed:
- Don't isolate yourself. Stay in touch with your
loved ones and friends, your minister or rabbi, and your family
- Don't make major life decisions (for example,
about separation or divorce). You may not be thinking clearly right now, so your
decisions may not be the best ones for you.
- Don't blame yourself for your depression. You
didn't cause it.
- Don't be discouraged about not feeling well right
away, Be patient with yourself.
- Don't give up.
- Do exercise every day to make yourself feel
better and to get more energy.
- Do eat balanced meals and healthy food, and get
- Do take your medicine and/or go to counseling as
often as your doctor tells you to. Your medicine won't work if you only take it
once in a while.
- Do set small goals for yourself, because you may
have less energy.
- Do encourage yourself.
- Do get as much information as you can about
depression and its treatment.
- Do call your doctor or the local suicide crisis
center right away if you start thinking about
antidepressants safe for any woman with
If you're planning to
get pregnant, talk to your doctor about your medicines before you try to get
pregnant. If you accidentally get pregnant while you're taking an
antidepressant, tell your doctor right away. Your doctor will know if your
medicine is safe to take.
medicines for depression can pass into your breast milk. Talk to your doctor
about your medicine and breast
It's OK to take birth control
pills or hormone replacement therapy at the same time as depression medicines.
Taking hormones may even help some depressed women feel
Do antidepressants have side
Like most medicines,
antidepressants can cause side effects. However, not all people taking
antidepressants experience side effects. Any side effects you have will depend
on which medicine your doctor has chosen for you.
If you're taking a tricyclic
antidepressant, you may have a dry mouth, constipation, blurred vision, a
"spacy" feeling, bladder problems, tiredness, sleepiness, dizziness, shaky
hands, fast heartbeat or weight
If you're taking a selective
serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), you may have nausea, vomiting, diarrhea,
nervousness, sleepiness or trouble sleeping, or problems with sex (inability to
have an orgasm).
can cause similar side effects. If a side effect of your antidepressant bothers
you, talk to your doctor about
How will I know if my medicine
You'll sleep better.
Your appetite will improve, and you'll have more energy. You'll have a better
feeling about the future. You'll feel less sad, and it will be easier to make
decisions. Be patient -- you may notice improvement as soon as 1 week after you
start taking an antidepressant, but you probably won't see the full effects for
about 6 to 8 weeks.
How long will I
need to take the medicine?
you'll need to take the medicine depends on your depression. If this is the
first time you've been depressed, your doctor will probably want you to take the
medicine for about 6 months. If this is the second time you've been depressed,
you'll probably take the medicine for about 1 year. However, if this is the
third or fourth time you've been depressed, you may need to take the medicine
for years so the depression doesn't come