FEATURE — Women who battle depression can face some unique challenges, but there is always hope and help available.
Here are seven things to know about depression in women:
1. Women get depression twice as often as men.
Women are not only susceptible to the garden-variety chemical depression that men are, but they also have to deal with the risks of postpartum depression, premenstrual dysphoric disorder, perimenopausal depression and depression in pregnancy.
2. Depression and anxiety often occur together.
The same biochemical changes that seem to cause depression can also cause anxiety. Treatment is the same for both chronic depression and anxiety, and it seems to be effective for both.
3. There is not total agreement whether antidepressants do much more than placebo.
We don’t know why people get depressed. We don’t know exactly what changes. We think it is a brain chemistry issue. We think antidepressants fix that.
A third of women don’t respond to any given treatment, so medicines and dosage are constantly changed.
Antidepressants also have side-effects — on sexual function, sleep and weight gain, to name a few. So it is not a totally benign treatment. But when counseling just isn’t feasible and the wait-and-see approach is not acceptable, starting an antidepressant is reasonable. Just keep expectations reasonable.
4. Depression causes physical pain as well as psychological pain.
It is a terrible sensation for those who deal with it. Every nerve seems to be aching, old injuries flare up and lack of sleep and support can push you to the brink. Feeling physical pain is not in your imagination. It is a very real thing with depression.
5. You can’t just “suck it up” or “snap out” of a depression.
It is what it is. While treatments may not be perfect, they get you into the loop, and other medical conditions can be evaluated. Counseling can be provided, and specialist referral is available if first- and second-line therapies don’t work.
6. You don’t have to start with medication. Seeing a therapist is equally as effective.
Your therapist will often, after some evaluation, refer you to your doctor to also be treated with antidepressants when it is deemed necessary. Or if progress is being made, they will continue working with you.
In my opinion, it is a “six of one, half dozen of the other” form of treatment. If one isn’t working, we try the other, and vice versa.
7. There are basic things you can do. You have the same options that the rich and famous do.
Exercise has been shown to help with depression in every study done on it. The more rigorous the better.
Getting enough sleep is essential. Your doctor can help you with that if needed.
Get outside in natural light. Get up with the sun whenever you can.
If you’re still feel lousy after doing all you can on your own, see your doctor.
Churchill, Lincoln, Beethoven, Ellen DeGeneres, Johnny Depp, Angelina Jolie, Dolly Parton, Michael Phelps, JK Rowling — all these famous and rich and successful people have suffered from depression. They sought help. And so should you if you need it.
- Dr. Sean Lynn practices at St. George Women’s Health Center in St. George | Telephone: 435-218-7770.
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