August 23rd, 2023
Depression is one of the top presenting mental illnesses in women’s health, affecting millions of women each year. Depression is classified as a mood disorder, often presenting as a lack of energy, increased sadness, and feelings of hopelessness. As with other mental illnesses, depression can be seen as an invisible illness. Many with depression continue to work and can fulfill obligations at home and in their relationship despite the lack of energy and feelings of sadness they may be experiencing. For others, their depression may become not only mentally debilitating but also physically, making it challenging to hold a job or maintain relationships. Depression may occur in some because of a life event such as losing a loved one, a job or career change, a move or relocation, and various other events. For others, there may not be a clear cause.
Depression can manifest differently in everyone. The following are some of the most common signs of women’s depression:
1.) Decreased interest in activities that previously provided pleasure.
2.) Feelings of sadness that occur persistently or feelings of emptiness.
3.) Difficulties with sleep- This can present difficulties with falling or staying asleep. Insomnia can also occur.
4.) Lack of energy and never feeling rested.
5.) Challenges with decision-making or focus.
6.) Thoughts or wanting to harm self, suicidal ideations, or suicidal intentions.
Depression can present as wanting to lay in a dark room, isolated from social interactions for days. It can also present as dirty dishes in the sink for days, getting behind on household responsibilities, needing to call off work due to unbearable sadness, or canceling plans due to not having the energy or desire to be around others.
One of the differences in how Depression can look differently in women than men is that many women may also experience PMDD, otherwise known as Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder. The onset of PMDD symptoms typically is around a week before the beginning of a menstrual cycle and is present in mental and physical symptoms. PMDD isn’t exclusive to adult women but can also be present in adolescents. Here are some symptoms of PMDD:
1.) Heightened Fatigue.
2.) Increased anger or irritability.
3.) Changes in appetite, including increased hunger. In some cases, this can be present in binge eating episodes. Individuals may have strong cravings for sugar or other foods they may not crave as much during other times of the month.
4.) Headaches or Migraines.
5.) Mood Swings- One can feel on top of the earth one minute, and the next, they can feel like they need to curl up in a ball and cry. In these cases, the smallest things can cause one's mood to shift drastically.
6.) Feelings of sadness and heightened suicidal ideations.
7.) Feeling easily overwhelmed.
In addition to PMDD, depression during pregnancy and after childbirth is also increasingly high. There are various causes of heightened depression during these periods.
Some of the reasons for depression can include:
1.) High-risk pregnancies where the likelihood of complications occurring is increased.
2.) Traumatic Childbirths- Giving birth can be a very traumatic experience for women. Some factors can include the environment, length of labor, resources available, and difficulties with the birth process.
3.) Unplanned pregnancies- When one gets pregnant unexpectedly, it can be stressful and invoke fear and worry. They may be unsure if they are in the position to be a parent in their current life position or may fear if they have the resources available to be the best parent that they can be.
Depression can also be heightened in those who have experienced a miscarriage, stillbirth, or are experiencing infertility issues. It can be hard for women who yearn to have children.
One of the most common types of depression in women related to childbirth is Peripartum depression. This can present with both physical and mental symptoms following childbirth. Signs and symptoms can begin to present shortly after childbirth in some women, but in others, may not present for several months after delivery.
The following are warning signs that Peripartum Depression may be occurring:
1.) Panic attacks and increased anxiety.
2.) Feeling withdrawn or isolated from the rest of the world.
3.) Thoughts of harming self, the baby, or others.
4.) Challenges with sleeping.
5.) Decreased self-esteem and worries that they are not good a good mother to their newborns.
6.) Increased irritability.
Childbirth presents a lot of hormonal changes in the body that can bring about a lot of physical ailments as well as a rollercoaster of emotions. It is a unique process that each woman experiences differently. Women can have difficulties with feeling a deep bond with their children, not feeling supported by others in their lives, and feeling exhausted from the new responsibility of raising a child.
It is also important to recognize that women in the process of trying to adopt may also experience increased depression. The process of adoption is quite expensive and presents its own challenges. Women that are going through this transition may feel isolated, alone, and may feel defeated during the process.
It is important to be able to recognize the signs and symptoms. At Clarity Clinic, we have a variety of resources and providers here to help you navigate these symptoms. Depression is a serious mental illness and can cause devastating effects if left untreated. If you or someone you know presents with signs of depression, seeking help can not only help with improving symptoms but can help to save a life.
The following are resources available to women looking to seek additional assistance to manage their depression:
1.) Clarity Clinic- You can use the following link to sign up for an appointment for Psychiatry/ Medication Management or to see an individual therapist.
Clarity Clinic also offers a Grief Group that meets at 7 PM via telehealth on Wednesdays to help those looking to process grief and loss.
2.) Illinois Postpartum Depression Resources- The following is a link with resources to help mothers during pregnancy and following childbirth with managing depression and anxiety:
3.) Rush Behavioral Medicine- Rush offers and variety of resources to help women’s mental health. Whether you are dealing with infertility issues, are dealing with a high-risk pregnancy, post-birth trauma, or any other issue, they have medical professionals and resources readily available to help you.
4.) National Alliance on Mental Illness- (NAMI)- You can call
(800-950-6264) to speak to someone on the phone. If you are not up to talking on the phone, you can also text “NAMI” to 62640, and someone will reach out to you.
Written by: Katherine Cunningham, LPC
At Clarity Clinic, we have highly trained staff specializing in therapy and psychiatry services. Clarity Clinic currently offers Medication Management and Therapy Services in 22 different languages. To learn more about how we can support your mental health, call Clarity Clinic at (312) 815-9660 or schedule an appointment today.
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