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Depression and Women: Help is Available

In Brief

  • Women are twice more likely to experience a major depression than men. 
  • Women will often go untreated for depression because they tend to be caretakers and do not take care of themselves. Depression in women is different than men because it may occur earlier and last longer, be more likely to recur and is usually associated with stressful life events. 
  • There are a number of warning signs for depression, including a persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood and a loss of interest or pleasure in activities.
  • Depression is treatable. Common treatments include psychotherapy and medications, such as antidepressants. 

As reported by the American Psychological Association, more than 17 million adults experience depression every year. Women are twice as likely to experience a major depression as men. That means that nearly one out of every four women will experience an episode at some time in her life. Depression can affect women from all socioeconomic, racial and educational backgrounds.

Depression is a serious and pervasive mood disorder. It causes feelings of sadness, hopelessness, helplessness and worthlessness. However, women will often go untreated because they tend to be caretakers and do not take care of themselves. Depression in women is different than in men because it may occur earlier and last longer, be more likely to recur and is usually associated with stressful life events.

“One of the reasons why women often suffer more depression than men is because of the related changes in hormone levels that occur throughout a woman’s life,” says Jane Summers, M.D., staff psychotherapist at Crozer-Chester Medical Center. She explains that hormonal changes are evident during puberty, pregnancy and menopause as well as after giving birth, or experiencing a miscarriage. Depressive symptoms can be exacerbated during premenstrual hormonal changes that occur each month. 

Women who are experiencing depression do not just feel sad; they feel miserable. Many express a sense of extreme fatigue and a total absence of energy. Performing the smallest tasks seems impossible. In addition, they have trouble concentrating and feel like failures and a burden to others. These feelings turn into guilt and an inability to see a future. Women also are more likely to experience guilty feelings and attempt suicide than men.

Depression can be associated with anxiety disorders and may lead to the abuse of alcohol and other drugs. Women may also have biological reasons for suffering from depression. A variety of methods are used to treat depression, including psychotherapy and medications, such as antidepressants. 

“A lot of women may feel that if they know the stressor or reason for their depression then they don’t need treatment. Stressors can include a biological condition or life-changing event. Whatever the cause of depression, treatment is very effective,” Summers says.

Signs that you or someone you love may be suffering from depression 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 awakenings
  • Increase or decrease in appetite
  • Decreased energy, fatigue, feeling “run down”
  • Thoughts of death or suicide
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering or making decisions
  • Persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment like headaches, digestive disorders and chronic pain.

“It is important to recognize that depression is treatable. It can stem from external stressors or a biological condition and it is important to contact your physician if you are experiencing signs of depression,” says Kevin P. Caputo, M.D., president of Community Hospital; chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at Crozer-Chester Medical Center and Taylor Hospital; and vice president of Behavioral Health for Crozer-Keystone Health System.

Crozer-Keystone Health System has Delaware County’s largest staff of board-certified psychiatrists who are prepared to deliver a comprehensive physical and emotional diagnosis and treatment for a range of issues. For more information, contact Psychotherapy Services at Crozer-Chester Medical Center at (610) 874-5257.

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