An Overview Of Women And Depression

depressed looking woman being consoled by friend

Depression can occur at any age and can also affect men, women, or, unfortunately, even children. Women, however, are nearly twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with depression. Let’s take a look at the link between women and depression.

Research has shown that by age 15, females are twice as likely as males to experience significant depression. In fact, research has found that female high school students have significantly higher rates of depression, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, and adjustment disorders as compared to their male counterparts.

The stresses of adolescence, trying to figure out your identity, dealing with emerging sexuality, learning to become more independent, and making decisions for the first time. All these changes are accompanied by physical, intellectual, and hormonal changes, which can differ for boys and girls. Females, in particular, may experience more stress and depression during this time.


There are many theories as for the cause of the increased occurrence of depression in women but I will discuss three implicated reasons: psychological, social, and biological. However, something to keep in mind is that though women are twice as likely to experience depression, it should not be considered a “normal” part of being a woman, nor should it be seen as a sign of weakness. Instead, it is a medical illness that affects more than 15 million American adults each year, age 18 and older. It can occur in any woman at any time and for various reasons, regardless of age, race, or income.


  • Some of us women are overthinkers. When we get depressed, we tend to dwell on the situation and rehash the negative feelings. While it might be a normal response to cry, talk with friends, and discuss why we are depressed, research shows that stewing about it can make the depression last longer and even make it worse.
  • Negative body images and stress-induced depression are other psychological factors that also tend to affect us women more than men. The negative body image issues usually begin in adolescence and seem to be connected with the start of puberty in women.
  • Women are more prone to stress because we have increased progesterone levels, which have been shown to prevent stress hormones from leveling out. 


Some of the social factors that may lead to depression in women include:

  • Stress from work — discrimination at work or not reaching essential goals, job change, retirement
  • Family responsibilities—caring for children, spouse, or aging parents
  • Roles and expectations of women — balancing the pressures of career and home life
  • Income levels— persistent money problems
  • Stressful life events — death of a loved one, domestic violence, sexual abuse


Biologically speaking, depression runs in families. Although genetics can increase the likelihood of depression, strong family and social relationships can help build resilience.

Other biological and hormonal factors that are also likely to increase the chances of suffering from depression are issues with premenstrual problems, infertility, pregnancy, postpartum depression, and premenopause/menopause. Most of these are due to hormonal imbalances and rapid fluctuations in reproductive hormones.

Something else to consider is how the stress of dealing with health problems such as a chronic illness, injury, or disability can also lead to depression or make it worse. Some chronic diseases can change your body chemistry and cause depression, such as an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism).

In addition to the psychological, social, and biological causes of depression mentioned above, the following are also increased risk factors for depression in women:

  • loss or death of a parent in childhood
  • job loss, relationship problems, divorce
  • past physical, sexual, or emotional abuse
  • use of certain medications


If you treat depression, it can improve your health and quality of life. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to help yourself, and the first one is knowing the signs of depression so you can get treatment. Symptoms of depression can vary depending on whether you are suffering from mild to severe or major depression and are characterized by the impact they have on a woman’s ability to function. Common complaints include:

  • pronounced feelings of guilt, hopelessness, and worthlessness
  • sleep disturbances (Sleeping more or sleeping less)
  • appetite and weight changes
  • lack of energy and fatigue
  • loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed
  • difficulty concentrating
  • feeling out of control
  • panic attacks
  • suicidal thoughts or attempts of suicide


Usually, medications and therapy are the most common treatment options for women suffering from depression. Therapy has been shown to be a very effective method of treatment. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the most standard forms of talk therapy or psychotherapy. With CBT, one learns new ways of thinking in addition to coping mechanisms to use when feelings of depression hit.

This one-on-one therapy is also helpful in assisting women in understanding the problematic relationships they might be in and how to improve them. It also helps women change habits that might be contributing to their depression. Group therapy or family therapy is also helpful if family stress is a contributing factor to one’s depressed state.

Along with medication and/or therapy, there also are some self-help techniques that can help improve your mood if you are suffering from depression. You will find them listed below:

  • Find a listening ear — Share your feelings with people you can trust, and don’t be afraid to ask for the help and support you need.
  • Engaged activity — Even when you don’t feel like it (and you probably won’t), stay involved in social activities and functions.
  • Physical exercise — Regular exercise can be as effective as antidepressant medication in increasing energy levels and decreasing feelings of fatigue. Even three or four 10-minute short bursts of movement throughout the day can be just as effective as 30 minutes at one time.
  •  Sleep — Get enough sleep – 8 hours per night is ideal.
  • Practice relaxation techniques — Meditate, try yoga, or practice other relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or progressive muscle relaxation.

“If you rearrange the letters in depression, you’ll get ‘I pressed on’ – meaning your current situation is NOT your final destination.” –Unknown

Working with a coach can be beneficial for exploring one’s emotions and gaining clarity on how to move forward in life. Are you ready to take the first step? 

Hi, I’m Kris Henderson. I want you to know that I am here to help. If you desire personalized support, I invite you to contact me or schedule your phone call today.

This article originally appeared on Counseling Solutions of West Michigan.