Can you relate…
- Do you have nagging, negative, critical, or complaining thoughts?
- Do you find that things you once enjoyed now strike terror in your heart?
- Do you struggle with shame?
- Do you experience low self-worth?
- Do you feel like you have committed a sin that is beyond the scope of God’s forgiveness?
If you can answer yes to any of these questions, you may be experiencing of symptoms of depression.
Dead, but Walking . . .
Depression can sometimes feel terrifying. You feel numb. Your world is dark and heavy. I remember thinking having a physical pain would be much better – at least then the pain would be localized and treatable with pain killers. But the pain of depression is not localized to just one part of our body. Depression seems to go to your very soul, negatively impacting everything in its path.
It’s important to know that depression is not just a brief period of time when you feel sad or down about something. It’s a serious mood disorder that can affect your daily life. And it isn’t always easy to recognize or treat. You may not even realize that you’re dealing with depression until you’ve experienced symptoms for an extended period of time.
Depression Symptoms in Women vs. Men
Although anyone can suffer from depression, women experience depression at nearly twice the rate that men do. Women also tend to experience depression differently than our male counterparts.
Some of these differences are the result of the hormonal differences between men and women. Women experience dramatic hormonal changes during menstruation, pregnancy, childbirth, and menopause.
Other differences can be caused by the different social norms that have been created for men and women. For example, in the United States, men are expected to be tough and not share or emotionally express how they’re feeling.
Women, on the other hand, are often expected to be more open and emotional. This tendency can cause both men and women to express their feelings of depression differently based on what they believe is socially acceptable for them to do or say.
For example, some men express their symptoms of depression in fits of anger, by blaming the people around them for the things that are going wrong, picking fights with friends and family, or turning to destructive habits like drinking and substance abuse.
Women, on the other hand, may show extreme bouts of sadness. They often blame themselves for the things that are going wrong, or they turn to unhealthy habits like emotional eating or physical forms of self-harm.
Psychological Causes of Depression
Women are more prone to psychological causes of depression than men. With a tendency to be more emotional, women are more likely to rehash negative thoughts during bouts of depression.
While it is a normal response to cry, talk with friends, and rehash why it is you are in your depressive state, research has shown that ruminating about depression can cause it to last longer and even make it worse. In contrast, men tend to distract themselves from their depressive state – which has been shown to reduce the duration of symptoms.
Additional psychological factors that tend to affect women over men are negative body images and stress-induced depression. Women are more prone to stress than men because their increased levels of progesterone have been shown to prevent stress hormones from leveling out. Negative body image issues usually begin in adolescence and seem to be correlated with the onset of puberty in women.
Social Causes of Depression
Social causes such as coping skills, choice of relationships, and lifestyle choices affect women differently than men. As a woman, you are more likely to develop depression from marital or relationship problems, work-life balance issues, financial troubles, and stressful life events, including the loss of a loved one.
Some of the unique factors in how depression differs between women and men include:
- Women feel anxious and scared; men feel guarded
- Women blame themselves for the depression; men blame others
- Women commonly feel sad, worthless, and apathetic when depressed; men tend to feel irritable and angry
- Women are more likely to avoid conflicts when depressed; men are more likely to create conflicts
- Women turn to food and friends to self-medicate; men turn to alcohol, TV, sex, or sports to self-medicate
- Women feel lethargic and nervous; men feel agitated and restless
- Women easily talk about their feelings of self-doubt and despair; men hide feelings of self-doubt and despair, considering it a sign of weakness
Clinical Causes of Depression in Women
Let’s take a closer look at some of the clinical causes of depression in women.
Major Depression is a severe form of depression in which a woman loses her ability to find pleasure in activities once considered enjoyable. In addition, it affects a woman’s ability to work, sleep, and eat in normal and effective manners and usually negatively impacts interpersonal and social relationships.
With major depression, also known as Major Depressive Disorder, your depressed state may persist for an extended period of time and is often accompanied with low self-esteem and a diminished since of worth.
Postpartum Depression is a special type of depression that occurs after the birth of a child – sometimes referred to as the “baby blues.” Symptoms of postpartum depression typically arise in the first couple of weeks to months following the birth, while in some women, this can occur while she is still pregnant – Perinatal Depression.
During these times, your body’s hormones are changing so wildly that your moods change to symptoms of anxiety and/or depression. Some of these symptoms may include trouble sleeping, suicidal thoughts or ideation, or even feelings of being unable to adequately care of yourself or your baby.
Persistent Depressive Disorder, also called dysthymia, is considered a milder but chronic form of depression that lasts for two years or more. However, intermittent episodes of Major Depressive Disorder may still occur during Persistent Depressive Disorder.
This may include extended periods of depressed mood combined with at least two other symptoms, such as fatigue or low energy, overeating or complete loss of appetite, low self-esteem, and/or feelings of hopelessness. Poor concentration or difficulty making decisions are often symptoms as well.
Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder is the type of depression that is tied to our menstrual cycle. In this form of depression, severe mood swings, anxiety, and negative thoughts present themselves in the week prior to the start of menstruation and dissipate once the menstrual period begins. Depressive symptoms are severe enough to negatively impact interpersonal relationships and interfere with daily activities.
There are also a multitude of genetic, hormonal, psychological, and social factors that come into play when looking at the cause of symptoms of depression in women.
Biology and hormone factors are likely to increase your chances of suffering from depression. Depression runs in families – with scientific evidence that some genetic makeups are more prone to depression than others.
Issues with pregnancy, fertility, perimenopause, menopause, and menstrual cycles increase women’s risk factors of developing depression. Most of these are due to hormonal imbalances and rapid fluctuations in reproductive hormones. Health problems in general, especially those of chronic illness or disability, can prompt depression in women, as can medical life changes – such as frequent dieting and smoking cessation.
Increased Risk Factors of Depression in Women
In addition to the biological, psychological, and social causes of depression mentioned above, the National Institutes of Health indicate the following are also increased risk factors of depression in women:
- Death of a parent before age 10
- Job loss, relationship problems, divorce
- Physical or sexual abuse during childhood
- History of mood disorders
- Use of certain medications
Signs of Depression in Women
Nevertheless, everyone experiences depression differently, so you may find that your symptoms aren’t easily lumped into any one category. Signs and symptoms of depression will vary from woman to woman.
Some of the most common signs and symptoms of depression in women are listed below:
- Feelings of emptiness, hopelessness, despair, and sadness
- Irritability, anxiousness, and guilt
- Feelings of exhaustion, severe tiredness
- Loss of interest in previously pleasurable activities
- Inability to concentrate or remember details
- Suicidal thoughts or attempts of suicide
- Sleep disturbances; sleeping too much or too little, insomnia
- Changes in appetite – eating too much or too little
- Physical symptoms – aches and pains, cramps, headaches, digestive issues, breast tenderness, bloating
- Lack of energy
- Feeling out of control
- Mood swings and feelings of tearfulness
- Panic attacks
- Feelings of tension
- Disinterest in daily activities and relationships
But you are not alone!
“The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” – Psalm 34:18, NIV
Does it help to know that you are not alone? These days depression affects as much as 25 percent of the population. Although it has always been a human problem, no one really knows why. But what Christians do know is that God is not silent when we suffer. On every page of Scripture, God’s depressed children have been able to find hope and a reason to endure.
“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”– 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, ESV
Better Ways of Coping with Depression
Instead of trying to raise your view of yourself, come at it from a completely different angle. Start with Christ and His love for you.
What truths can we glean from God’s Word about depression?
First of all and most importantly, the Scriptures bring reassurance that you are not alone in your struggle with depression. The Bible shows that depression can strike anyone. Poor people like Naomi, the mother-in-law of Ruth, and very rich people, like King Solomon, suffered from depression. Young people, like David, and older people, like Job, were also afflicted with depression. Women, like Hannah, who was barren, and men, like Jeremiah, the “weeping prophet” also struggled with feelings of depression.
Understandably, depression can come after a defeat:
“When David and his men reached Ziklag, they found it destroyed by fire and their wives and sons and daughters taken captive. So David and his men wept aloud until they had no strength left to weep.”– 1 Samuel 30:3-4, NIV
An emotional letdown can also come after a great victory, as seen after the prophet Elijah defeated the false prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel in a stunning display of God’s power. But instead of being encouraged, Elijah, fearing Jezebel’s revenge, was weary and afraid:
“He (Elijah) came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, LORD,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep.”– 1 Kings 19:4-5, NIV
Discouragement and depression are normal parts of being human. They can be triggered by the death of a loved one, illness, loss of a job or status, divorce, leaving home, or many other traumatic events. The Bible does not show God punishing His people for their sadness. Rather, He acts as a loving Father.
“David was greatly distressed because the men were talking of stoning him; each one was bitter in spirit because of his sons and daughters. But David found strength in the LORD his God.” – 1 Samuel 30:6, NIV
“Elkanah made love to his wife Hannah, and the LORD remembered her. So in the course of time Hannah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel, saying, “Because I asked the LORD for him.”– 1 Samuel 1:19-20, NIV
“For when we came into Macedonia, we had no rest, but we were harassed at every turn – conflicts on the outside, fears within. But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming but also by the comfort you had given him.”– 2 Corinthians 7:5-7, NIV
God is Our Hope in the Midst of Depression
One of the great truths of the Bible is that God is our hope when we are in trouble – including when we are struggling with depression. When depression hits, fix your eyes on God, His Power, and His Love for you.
“The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”– Deuteronomy 31:8, NIV
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”– Joshua 1:9, NIV
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”– Isaiah 41:10, NIV
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.”– Jeremiah 29:11-12, NIV
Christian Counseling for Depression in Women
Seeing a Christian counselor can give you a safe outlet for confronting your feelings of depression. Together, we can find biblical truths to challenge and defeat these difficult emotions and intense feelings and help you prevent your depressive symptoms from becoming worse.
Let Psalm 40:1-3 be your prayer: “I waited patiently for the LORD; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the LORD.” In Jesus’ Holy and Most Precious Name, Amen.
“Broken Heart”, Courtesy of Burak Kostak, Pexels.com, CC0 License; “Sad”, Courtesy of Pixabay, Pexels.com, CC0 License; “Reading”, Courtesy of Negative Space, Pexels.com, CC0 License; “Encouragement”, Courtesy of Dan Meyers, Unsplash.com, CC0 License