Major depression is nearly twice as common in women as in men. About 12 million American women experience an episode of major depression at some points in their lives, but only 6 million American men. According to the National Institue of Mental Health (NIMH), nearly 30 percent of women in the United States report depression symptoms. And even though bipolar disorder is about equal in the sexes, women experience more depressive episodes than men. Why is this? Research suggests it has much to do with the reproduction-related hormonal changes in women. Recently Everyday Health’s Krisha McCoy, MS wrote a piece about women and depression. She listed these six factors as contributors to women’s depression:
1. Hormone fluctuations. Hormone levels fluctuate throughout a woman’s life. The hormonal changes that occur during puberty, during the premenstrual period, around pregnancy, and around the time of menopause may cause changes in brain chemicals that regulate emotion and mood, triggering depression
2. Premenstrual syndrome. In severe cases of premenstrual syndrome, known as premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), women may experience depression and other symptoms before menstruation. It is not yet known why, but some women are more sensitive than others to the hormonal changes that occur before the menstrual cycle.
3. Pregnancy and childbirth. After giving birth, women are susceptible to postpartum depression. Postpartum depression is related to the hormonal and physical changes women experience after giving birth, as well as the responsibility of caring for a baby.
4. Reactions to stress. The loss of a loved one, an illness, a difficult relationship, or another stressful life situation can trigger a depressive episode. Women tend to feel stress for a longer period of time after such an event, which may make them more vulnerable to depression.
5. Ruminative thinking. Women tend to practice ruminative thinking, which is repetitively focusing on symptoms of distress and what is causing them. There is evidence that ruminative thinking is associated with more severe episodes of depression.
6. Birth control pills. Taking oral contraceptives, particularly those with a high progesterone content, is a risk factor for depression.
Published originally on Sanity Break at Everyday Health.