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FAQ - How does depression affect women?

Clinical depression affects your physical well-being, resulting in chronic fatigue, sleep problems, and changes in appetite. It affects your mood, with feelings of sadness, emptiness, hopelessness and dysphoria.  It affects the way you think, interfering with concentration and decision making. And, it affects your behavior, with increased irritability and loss of temper, social withdrawal, and a reduction in your desire to engage in pleasurable activities. Research indicates that in the United States more than 17 million people experience depression each year, and nearly two thirds do not get the help they need. Proper treatment would alleviate the symptoms in over 80 percent of the cases. Yet, because depression is often unrecognized, depressed individuals often continue to suffer needlessly.

Major depression and dysthymia affect twice as many women as men. This two-to-one ratio exists regardless of racial and ethnic background or economic status. The same ratio has been reported in eleven other countries all over the world. Men and women have about the same rate of bipolar disorder (manic depression), though its course in women typically has more depressive and fewer manic episodes. Also, a greater number of women have the rapid cycling form of bipolar disorder, which may be more resistant to standard treatments. 

Many factors unique to women are suspected to play a role in developing depression. Research is focused on understanding these factors, including: reproductive, hormonal, genetic or other biological factors; abuse and oppression; interpersonal factors; and certain psychological and personality characteristics. But, the specific causes of depression in women remain unclear. Many women exposed to these stress factors do not develop depression. Remember, depression is a treatable psychological problem, and treatment is effective for most women.  

Women: Depression and Bipolar Disorder