Understanding Anxiety and Depression in Women

By Kevin Caputo, M.D., Chairman, Department of Psychiatry at Crozer-Chester Medical Center

One in eight women develops depression at some point in her life. While most common in women ages 25-44, depression can affect women of any age and can manifest in different ways. It is important to understand and identify the different ways you may experience depression.

ckhs-stock-images-52Depression is a common, serious and pervasive mood disorder. You may experience feelings of sadness, guilt and hopelessness, a loss of interest in things you once enjoyed or even 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.

Premenstrual, postpartum and menopausal are the most typical types of depression that women experience. But there are other reasons why women experience depression, including a family history of mood disorders, loss of their social support system and ongoing psychological and social stress.

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) 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. Hormones can have a direct effect on a woman’s physical and emotional health. 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.

ckhs-stock-images-71More than half of those diagnosed with depression also have anxiety. 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. Depression and anxiety together can be especially hard to live with, hard to diagnose and hard to treat.

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.

Talk to your primary care phyisician if you are experiencing symptoms of depression and/or anxiety. You can also look to the psychiatry services from Crozer-Keystone Health System for support with depression, anxiety or general mental health. Crozer-Keystone’s Psychiatry Services provide 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.

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