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The symptoms of depression in women aren’t necessarily different from those in men, but there are some unique considerations. For one thing, women are more likely than men to be depressed — after they hit puberty, at least. The gender gap is largest for adolescents and young adults (14 to 25 years of age); in this age group, the prevalence of depression is more than twice as high among females than among males. 

For another thing, women are susceptible to certain types of depression that don’t affect men, like premenstrual dysphoric disorder, prenatal depression, postpartum depression and perimenopausal depression. Given the ties to hormone-heavy events like puberty, menstruation, pregnancy/childbirth and menopause, hormonal fluctuations and differences may be at least partly to blame. There may also be social factors at play, like differences in higher-education rates, social norms and styles of coping with stress in women versus men. Here, we’ll discuss some common depression symptoms in women.

  1. Feelings of intense sadness or hopelessness

This is a common depression symptom in both women and men. However, men are more likely to also experience anger as part of their depression. In contrast, women are more likely to have these and other similar symptoms directly related to a depressed mood. Consistent with feelings of sadness, women may also cry more often when they are depressed.

  1. Guilt

Depression can be accompanied by symptoms like guilt and shame. People who are depressed might even feel guilty or ashamed about the depression itself. Research suggests that guilt is one of the characteristic depression symptoms that’s more common in women.

  1. Increased appetite and weight gain

You might think that someone who’s depressed wouldn’t have as much interest in food. But that’s not necessarily the case. Research suggests that women, in particular, are likely to be hungrier than usual when they’re depressed, especially for carbohydrates. This may lead them to gain weight. In contrast, men are more likely to lose their appetites.

  1. Anxiety or eating disorders

While these aren’t exactly symptoms of depression in women, they are common comorbidities or conditions that frequently co-occur with depression. So pay extra attention if you’re struggling with these conditions (or know someone who is); depression may be occurring as well. 

  1. Severe mood changes before your period

Most women are familiar with premenstrual syndrome (PMS). But in women with a form of depression called premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), symptoms like a depressed mood, irritability, anxiety and insomnia before their period are so severe they can make it difficult to function.

  1. Severe mood changes while pregnant

Pregnancy is well known for causing mood swings. However, a woman who’s experiencing a persistent extremely low mood or anxiety during pregnancy may actually be struggling with prenatal depression. Women who did not intend to become pregnant and those who are experiencing pregnancy complications may be particularly at risk.

  1. Severe mood changes after childbirth or trouble bonding with your baby

A low mood for the first few days after birth is typically chalked up to temporary “baby blues” resulting from all the physical and hormonal changes that occur after childbirth. However, a new mom who is feeling extremely sad, tired, irritable or anxious for more than two weeks after giving birth may have postpartum depression (PPD). Women with PPD may also feel like they can’t bond with their baby emotionally or have trouble caring for their child. In extreme cases, those with PPD may think about harming themselves or their child; if this describes you, please seek help immediately.

  1. Aches and pains

Although depression is a mood disorder, it can have physical manifestations as well. Research suggests that women are more likely than men to exhibit so-called somatization — that is, the transformation of their emotional symptoms into physical ones. So if you’ve been feeling low and are also dealing with some persistent aches and pains, they could be related.

  1. Gastrointestinal problems

Gastrointestinal issues like nausea, diarrhea, and constipation can also be physical symptoms of depression in women (or men) or can co-occur with depression. For example, research on women has shown that the severity of depression is correlated with the severity of gastrointestinal symptoms among those with gut disorders. However, this is a bit of a chicken-or-egg scenario; whether the gastrointestinal symptoms cause the depression, or vice versa — or both — is unclear.

  1. Sleep changes

Sleep disruption is considered one of the “core symptoms” of depression. This can include either difficulty falling or staying asleep (insomnia) or sleeping too much (hypersomnia). And research suggests that sleep disturbances are more common depression symptoms in women than in men. The sleep difficulties might also result in what’s called “excessive daytime sleepiness.”

Active Path Mental Health can help you manage your depression

If you have been diagnosed with depression, Active Path Mental Health can help. For those who have experience with therapy, we offer psychotherapy

If you have hard-to-treat depression, we also offer an esketamine nasal spray (for non-pregnant women) that is used alongside oral antidepressants. We provide transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), a noninvasive technique that uses pulses of magnetic energy to stimulate underactive brain areas to help relieve depression symptoms for all people, including women, whether pregnant or not.

Contact our team today for more information about the depression treatments we offer or to schedule an initial appointment.

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