Back to Top Skip to main content

Women and depression

Mental health technicians assigned to the 48th Medical Group Mental Health Flight converse in the hospital reception area at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England. The Mental Health Flight is one of many resources available to assist with depression and other mental health concerns. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Shanice Williams-Jones) Mental health technicians assigned to the 48th Medical Group Mental Health Flight converse in the hospital reception area at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England. The Mental Health Flight is one of many resources available to assist with depression and other mental health concerns. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Shanice Williams-Jones)

Recommended Content:

Mental Wellness | Women's Health | Depression | Mental Health Care

Imagine having feelings of worthlessness or helplessness. Imagine being unable to sleep, feeling restless and irritable much of the time, or even hiding under the covers afraid to face the day. Many who suffer from depression may not be able to concentrate at work or perhaps even get to work. Those experiencing high- and low-functioning depression know such feelings all too well.

But for women, there are certain times in their lives when a depression diagnosis is more common. Research has shown that hormonal changes at three stages of life—puberty, post-pregnancy, and during perimenopause—may trigger clinical depression.

Dr. Nancy Skopp, research psychologist at the Psychological Health Center of Excellence, described clinical depression, or major depressive disorder, as a depressed mood lasting at least two weeks and marked by a loss of interest in things that once were pleasurable. She noted that this period would contain a clear change from previous functioning. If someone isn’t completing work duties, shows up late for work, or experiences profound fatigue and avoids interaction with family and friends, depression could be the cause.

“Depression symptoms in women often occur around a reproductive event,” said Skopp, adding that there is some evidence that suggests women may have a chronic and recurrent course with longer and more frequent episodes than men.

Symptoms of depression from the National Institute of Mental Health

Skopp cited statistics from the National Institute of Mental Health showing that 50-80 percent of new mothers may experience the “baby blues,” which usually appear about a week after giving birth and include feeling down, irritability, sleep problems, anxiety, and eating too much or too little. The difference is that the symptoms are mild and usually resolve in a week or two.

Postpartum depression is much more serious, Skopp said. Between 10 and 20 percent of new mothers experience depression, according to NIMH statistics. Symptoms of extreme sadness, anxiety, and exhaustion may make it difficult to complete daily activities as a new mother.

During perimenopause, usually between the ages of 40 and 50, when the ovaries gradually begin to make less estrogen, depressive symptoms combine with menopausal symptoms. Women may also experience other life challenges, such as the demands of caring for aging parents, a change in marital status, health problems, or negative attitudes about aging. Skopp said although men may experience similar stresses at midlife, the hormonal changes experienced by women may compound such stresses. “It’s a very challenging time,” she said.

Approximately 12 million women in the United States experience clinical depression each year, with one in eight experiencing depression in her lifetime, according to NIMH research. This rate of depression corresponds to hormonal changes in women, particularly during these three life stages, suggesting that female hormonal fluctuations may be a trigger for depression. Another trigger may be gender differences between women and men, which may be genetic or involve life stressors and coping styles.

Skopp says research shows women may have a greater tendency to internalize in the face of depressive symptoms. Men appear to be more likely than women to cope with such symptoms through behavioral distraction, such as doing something that takes the mind off depressive feelings. The result appears to be that more active distraction in men may shorten or prevent a depressive episode whereas internalization in women may prolong it. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that between 2013 and 2016, 10.4 percent of women experienced depression compared to 5.5 percent of men.

“Being in the military can magnify the depression triggers one might experience in the general population,” said Navy Cmdr. Paulette Cazares, associate director for mental health at the Naval Medical Center San Diego.

“The benefit of seeing depression as any other illness allows service members to realize the necessity of early treatment, and the ability to stay focused on career and personal goals,” Cazares said. “Psychotherapy or antidepressant medications are first-line options to treat depression and reduce chances of a relapse. Meditation and yoga as therapy have also been used successfully to alleviate depressive symptoms.”

If you have symptoms of depression, talk to your health care provider. A loved one showing symptoms should be encouraged to speak to a health care provider as well. Military OneSource also has resources and information available for service members and their families.

You also may be interested in...

Breathing techniques

Photo
2/26/2016
Airmen and Soldiers practice breathing and relaxation during their off duty time in a deployed location. Stress can take its toll on your mental and physical health, including your heart health, but there are breathing techniques to buffer yourself from it. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Lance Cheung)

Airmen and Soldiers practice breathing and relaxation during their off duty time in a deployed location. Stress can take its toll on your mental and physical health, including your heart health, but there are breathing techniques to buffer yourself from it. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Lance Cheung)

Recommended Content:

Preventive Health | Mental Wellness

Cervical Health Awareness Month

Infographic
1/11/2016
Infographic about Cervical Health Awareness month

January is Cervical Health Awareness Month

Recommended Content:

Women's Health | Preventive Health

6 Easy Tips for Reducing Holiday Stress

Infographic
11/30/2015
holiday graphic listing 6 tips to reduce stress

Infographic listing 6 tips for reducing holiday stress.

Recommended Content:

Operation Live Well | Mental Wellness

DoD Instruction 6490.10: Continuity of Behavioral Health Care for Transferring and Transitioning Service Members

Policy

In accordance with the authority in Reference (a), this Instruction establishes policy for the Military Departments, assigns responsibilities, and prescribes guidelines for establishment of Military Department policy and procedures to ensure continuity of behavioral health (BH) care at the losing and gaining installations when Service members transition from one health care provider (HCP) to another when transferring to a new duty station or transitioning out of the Service.

  • Identification #: DoD Instruction 6490.10
  • Date: 10/28/2015
  • Type: Instructions
  • Topics: Mental Health Care

Suicide Prevention 2015

Video
9/17/2015
thumbnail image of the Suicide Prevention video

The Department of Defense takes suicide very seriously. Each Service is actively working to reduce the number of suicides. Watch this video to find out how you can help.

Recommended Content:

Suicide Prevention | Mental Wellness

DCOE Annual Report 2014

Report
7/16/2015

Annual Report for the Defense Center of Excellence - 2014

Recommended Content:

Cognitive Rehabilitation Therapy | Mental Health Care | Traumatic Brain Injury | Posttraumatic Stress Disorder | Suicide Prevention | DoD/VA Sharing Initiatives | Deployment Health

TBI Awareness: Memorial Box

Video
3/27/2015
Image of a memorial box.

US Army Sgt Fox explains how his memorial box has helped him heal and remember meaningful events and people in his life.

Recommended Content:

Traumatic Brain Injury | Mental Health Care

Dr. Heechin Chae on The Mystery of the Brain

Video
3/23/2015
Dr. Heechin Chae on The Mystery of the Brain

Traumatic brain injury expert, Dr. Heechin Chae speaks on the mystery of the brain.

Recommended Content:

Traumatic Brain Injury | Traumatic Brain Injury | Mental Health Care

DoD Instruction 6490.15: Integration of Behavioral Health Personnel (BHP) Services Into Patient-Centered Medical Home (PCMH) Primary Care and Other Primary Care Service Settings

Policy

This instruction establishes policy, assigns responsibilities, and prescribes procedures for attainment of inter-Service standards for developing, initiating, and maintaining adult behavioral health services in primary care.

  • Identification #: DoD Instruction 6490.15
  • Date: 11/20/2014
  • Type: Instructions
  • Topics: Mental Health Care

Interagency Task Force on Military and Veterans Mental Health

Report
10/24/2014

On August 31, 2012, President Obama signed Executive Order 13625 directing the Departments of Defense (DoD), Veterans Affairs (VA), and Health and Human Services (HHS), in coordination with other federal agencies, to take steps to ensure that Veterans, Service members and their Families receive the mental health and substance use services and support they need.

Recommended Content:

DoD/VA Sharing Initiatives | Mental Health Care

DoD Instruction 6490.05: Maintenance of Psychological Health in Military Operations

Policy

This instruction establishes policy and assigns responsibilities in accordance with References (c), (d), and (e) for developing combat and operational stress control (COSC) programs within the Military Departments, the Combatant Commands, and joint Service operations.

  • Identification #: DoD Instruction 6490.05
  • Date: 10/2/2013
  • Type: Instructions
  • Topics: Mental Health Care

DoD Instruction 6490.12: Mental Health Assessments for Service Members Deployed in Connection with a Contingency Operation

Policy

This instruction establishes the policy for person-to-person deployment mental health assessments for each member of the Military Services deployed in connection with a contingency operation according to Section 1074m of Title 10, United States Code (Reference (b)).

  • Identification #: DoD Instruction 6490.12
  • Date: 10/2/2013
  • Type: Instructions
  • Topics: Mental Health Care

Overview of the Integrated Mental Health Strategy

Presentation
8/19/2013

Overview of the Integrated Mental Health Strategy presented to the Defense Health Board

Recommended Content:

Mental Health Care | Mental Wellness

DoD Instruction 6490.04: Mental Health Evaluations of Members of the Military Services

Policy

Reissues DoD Instruction 6490.4 (Reference (b)), establishing policy, assigning responsibilities, and prescribing procedures for the referral, evaluation, treatment, and medical and command management of Service members who may require assessment for mental health issues, psychiatric hospitalization, and risk of imminent or potential danger to self or others.

  • Identification #: DoD Instruction 6490.04
  • Date: 4/3/2013
  • Type: Instructions
  • Topics: Mental Health Care

Update on DoD Mental Health Policies and Programs

Presentation
11/27/2012

Defense Health Board Update on DoD Mental Health Policies and Programs

Recommended Content:

Mental Health Care | Mental Wellness
<< < ... 6 7 8 9 > >> 
Showing results 91 - 105 Page 7 of 9

DHA Address: 7700 Arlington Boulevard | Suite 5101 | Falls Church, VA | 22042-5101

Some documents are presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). A PDF reader is required for viewing. Download a PDF Reader or learn more about PDFs.