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Depression in women

Women in the UK are almost twice as likely to be diagnosed with depression as men.

Around 1 in 4 women will require treatment for depression at some point in their life.

The reason for depression being more common in women is thought to be due to social and biological reasons. However, experts acknowledge that men may be less likely to seek help for depression, which influences the statistics.

What is depression?

Depression is a serious and pervasive mood disorder. It causes feelings of sadness, hopelessness, helplessness, and worthlessness. Depression can be mild to moderate with symptoms of low mood, apathy, little appetite, difficulty sleeping, low self-esteem, and low-grade fatigue. Or it can be more severe with symptoms of depressed mood most of the day, diminished interest in daily activities, weight loss or gain, insomnia or hypersomnia (oversleeping), fatigue, feelings of guilt almost daily, and recurring thoughts of death or suicide.

What are the symptoms of depression in women?

Symptoms of depression in women include:

  • Persistent sad, anxious, or "empty" mood
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities, including sex
  • Restlessness, irritability, or excessive crying
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness, hopelessness, pessimism
  • Sleeping too much or too little, early-morning awakening
  • Appetite and/or weight loss or overeating and weight gain
  • Decreased energy, fatigue, feeling "slowed down"
  • Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
  • Persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, such as headaches, digestive disorders, and chronic pain

What increases the chances of depression in women?

Factors that increase the risk of depression in women include reproductive, genetic, and other biological factors; interpersonal factors; and certain psychological and personality characteristics. In addition, women juggling work with raising children and women who are single parents suffer more stress that may trigger symptoms of depression. Other factors that could increase risk include:

  • Family history of mood disorders
  • History of mood disorders in early reproductive years
  • Loss of a parent before the age of 10
  • Loss of social support system or the threat of such a loss
  • Ongoing psychological and social stress, such as the loss of a job, relationship stress, separation or divorce
  • Physical or sexual abuse as a child
  • Use of certain infertility treatments
  • Use of certain oral contraceptives

Can depression in women run in families?

Yes. Depression can run in families. When it does, it generally starts between the ages of 15 and 30. A family link to depression is much more common in women.

How does depression in women differ from depression in men?

Depression in women differs from depression in men in several ways:

  • Depression in women may occur earlier, last longer, be more likely to reoccur, be more likely to be associated with stressful life events, and be more sensitive to seasonal changes
  • Women are more likely to experience guilty feelings and attempt suicide, although they actually commit suicide less often than men
  • Depression in women is more likely to be associated with anxiety disorders, especially panic and phobic symptoms, and eating disorders
  • Depressed women are less likely to abuse alcohol and other drugs

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