Depression strikes about 12 million American women every year, almost double the rate of men. Unlike occasional, normal feelings of sadness, clinical depression can be debilitating and affect a woman’s relationships, work, health and family. Depression can range from mild to chronic, severe episodes that last for years. Getting the proper treatment, including complementary natural remedies, helps depressed women live normal lives.
Depression in women has numerous causes and risk factors. Causes of depression in women include stress, heredity, hormonal fluctuations, brain chemicals, illness and nutritional deficiencies. Past abuse, current abuse, isolation and substance abuse put women at greater risk for developing depressive symptoms. Depression can occur due to other medical conditions, such as hypothyroidism. Tests can help isolate the cause of depression.
One in eight women — at some point in their lives — will experience clinical depression. Depression can take different forms. Women suffer from major depression, atypical depression, dysthymia and postpartum depression. Atypical depression appears more common in women. Several disorders cause depression in women, including premenstrual dysphoric disorder, bipolar disorder, seasonal affective disorder and adjustment disorder. Diagnosing which type of depression a woman has can help with an effective treatment plan.
Signs and Symptoms
Women with clinical depression experience various signs and symptoms. Changes in appetite, energy levels and sleep patterns can indicate depression. Mental signs of depression, such as irritability, lack of concentration, withdrawal, self-hate and suicidal thoughts, may also occur. Some depressed women feel worthless, hopeless and loss of libido. Women should report any signs or symptoms of depression to their health care provider and consider treatment options.
When treating depression, natural remedies can help on their own in milder cases or complement traditional treatment options. Lifestyle changes often help improve symptoms. Increased exercise, meditation, dietary changes, supplements and stress reduction help with depression. Supplements recommended include 5-HTP, vitamin B6 and SAMe. Herbal remedies might also help. St. John’s wort and ginkgo might help with mild to moderate depression.
While natural remedies for depression are an option for many women, you should always inform your health care provider of any supplement, herb, diet or exercise program. Some herbs and supplements can interfere or affect prescription medications. For example, St. John’s wort might interact with birth control pills. Severe depression requires medical treatment. Continuing a treatment plan after experiencing depression helps prevent relapse.