Depression is considered one of the top five health concerns for women. In the United States, about 15 million people suffer from depression each year making it a common but very serious disorder. Statistics show that women are twice as likely to experience depression as men. In fact, one in four women may develop major depression at some point during their life.
Depression interferes with normal life and daily functioning by affecting our mood, thoughts, habits and ability to enjoy life. People who have depression feel worthless, hopeless, helpless and sadness. Symptoms of depression can be mild, moderate or severe. Mild to moderate depression causes symptoms similar to major depression but they are less severe and are generally short term. Symptoms include loss of appetite, sleep related problems, low self esteem and low grade fatigue. Depression that is more severe includes symptoms of:
- Sadness or emptiness outside the normal realm of the occasional “blues”
- Loss of interest in once pleasurable activities
- Decreased energy and fatigue
- Inability to concentrate or make decisions
- Excessive crying and irritability
- Appetite changes including weight loss or gain
- Suicidal thoughts
- Vague physical symptoms unresponsive to treatment
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness and hopelessness
- Change in sleeping patterns including insomnia or excessive sleeping
Although there are no single causes of depression, experts believe that these high rates of depression in women may be related to hormonal changes that women experience over the course of their lifetime. These include puberty, pregnancy and menopause as well as monthly menstrual cycles. Research has shown that hormones directly affect the brain chemistry that controls mood and emotions.
As with many illnesses, stress is believed to be a contributing factor. Difficult life events such as loss of a loved one, divorce, balance of work and home responsibilities, caring for children and aging parents, abuse and poverty can all increase the risk of developing a depressive episode.
A variety of illnesses can coexist with depression. Women with depression can suffer from eating disorders, anxiety disorders, panic disorders and alcohol or substance abuse. People with depression who also have serious medical illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes or cancer tend to have more severe symptoms of both illnesses. Research has shown that treating both the depression and the illness helps ease each of the conditions.
Fortunately, depressive illnesses are highly treatable. The first step is a diagnosis from your healthcare provider. The earlier treatment begins, the better, as timing is critical in the prevention of reoccurrences. The most common treatments are medications such as antidepressants and short or long term psychotherapy.
Supplements such as SAMe, L-theanine, GABA, Lithium, Folic Acid, EPA and 5-HTP are some of the natural remedies used to reduce symptoms of depression. Consult your healthcare provider to explore your options before starting any supplement program in order to find the right treatment for you.
Remember depression is treatable. There is nothing better than waking each morning feeling good about yourself and positive about life. Seek help to feel better and begin to enjoy your life again.