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Women's Wellness September 2011

Understanding Anxiety and Depression in Women

One in eight women develops depression at some point in her life. Depression is most common in women ages 25-44. Premenstrual, postpartum and menopausal are the most typical types of depression that women experience. Other reasons why women experience depression are a family history of mood disorders, loss of their social support system, and ongoing psychological and social stress. 

Depression is a common, serious and pervasive mood disorder. Some of the symptoms of depression are feelings of sadness, guilt and hopelessness, loss of interest in things you once enjoyed, and thoughts of suicide. It also affects your appetite and your sleep. Although depression is treatable, two-thirds of those who are depressed do not seek help.  

Hormones can have a direct effect on a woman’s physical and emotional health. Premenstrual (PMS) syndrome is characterized by emotional and physical symptoms that are similar to the symptoms of depression. PMS is believed to be caused by chemical changes along with a woman’s fluctuating hormone levels. According to the Mayo Clinic, three out of every four women experience PMS.  

Postpartum depression (PPD) usually occurs within four weeks after delivering a baby. PPD is believed to occur because of the rapid drop in estrogen and progesterone hormones after birth, and social and psychological changes that are associated with having a baby. Within three days after the delivery, the high levels of hormones during pregnancy are decreased back to the level they were at before pregnancy. The symptoms of PPD are lack of sleep, appetite changes, excessive fatigue, decreased libido, and frequent mood changes, as well as other symptoms associated with depression.  

During peri-menopause and menopause, the drop in estrogen levels triggers physical and emotional changes that can include depression and/or anxiety. 

More than half of the people diagnosed with depression also have anxiety. Depression and anxiety together can be especially hard to live with, hard to diagnose, and hard to treat. Anxiety is an agitated state where those who suffer from it become overwhelmed by sudden physical symptoms that include a pounding heart, tightness in the chest, and difficulty breathing.  

Both anxiety and depression can be treated with medication, through psychotherapy or a combination of both. Psychotherapy helps you learn how to take control of your life and respond to challenging situations with healthy coping skills. 

To maintain good mental health or to treat your depression and/or anxiety, Crozer-Keystone Health System offers comprehensive mental health services. Crozer-Keystone’s psychiatry practice is Delaware County’s largest, with 47 board-certified or board-eligible psychiatrists. Our team offers diagnosis and treatment for a range of issues—from ADD, personality disorders, depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders. In addition to offering skilled treatment, Crozer-Keystone’s Psychiatry Services provides a supportive style of care—quiet, caring, and completely confidential. They will take as much time as needed to find out what is on your mind so that together you can work toward a solution to help you feel better. 

For more information about mental health services offered by Crozer-Keystone Health System, or for a physician referral, call 1-800-CK-HEALTH or visit http://www.crozerkeystone.org/services/psychiatry/. 

Reviewed by Kevin Caputo, M.D., chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at Crozer-Chester Medical Center, and president of Community Hospital. Dr. Caputo has an office location in Upland, Pa. and can be reached at (610) 874-5257.

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