While symptoms of depression are similar for men and women, research on women and depression has shown that women may be more likely to show certain symptoms, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, or NAMI. Women are also susceptible to an increased risk of clinical depression; they may also be twice as likely as men to experience depression. Rates of depression in females sharply rise during puberty and don’t fall until menopause, leading researchers suggest hormones may play a role. In addition to biological factors, women may also be at increased risk because of social factors, such as stress and role expectations.
Both men and women must display certain symptoms to be diagnosed with depression, although they will not experience all possible symptoms. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, possible symptoms include:
- Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings
- Feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism
- Irritability, restlessness, anxiety
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness and/or helplessness
- Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex
- Fatigue and decreased energy
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering details and making decisions
- Insomnia, waking up during the night, or excessive sleeping
- Overeating, or appetite loss
- Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts
- Persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment
The signs of depression in women may be more likely to include anxiety; somatization, or physical symptoms of mental health problems; weight gain and appetite increase; oversleeping; and outwardly expressed anger and hostility, according to NAMI.
Some anxiety in response to stress is normal, but many women with depression experience debilitating anxiety that prevents them from functioning normally. Symptoms may be emotional; such as worry, dread and fear, or physical; such as a racing heart, rapid breathing, or sweaty palms. Women are more than twice as likely as men to feel anxiety. Hormonal changes may be partly to blame, because women are especially likely to experience anxiety during PMS, perimenopause, and menopause.
Women may be more likely than men to experience somatic symptoms of depression, or physical ailments. Women with depression often report vague ailments with no known injury, including headache, back pain, or abominal pain. Among women visiting a health care clinic, women with depression are more likely to report physical complaints, leading to increased disability and use of health care services, according to a 1995 study in Health Care Women International. In some cases, physical pain can trigger depression.
Signs of depression in women may be more likely to be atypical. Atypical depression is characterized by uncommon symptoms such as oversleeping or weight gain. An improper diet and excessive sleeping can also make depression worse. In addition to overeating, certain antidepressants can also increase risk of weight gain. Other symptoms of atypical depression include fear of rejection and heavy-feeling arms and legs.
Anger and Hostility
Women who outwardly express their anger and hostility, rather than suppressing it, are more likely to experience depression. Women who outwardly express anger and hostility are also more likely to suffer from heart disease. However, suppressing anger is also unhealthy. When you experience feelings of anger, acknowledge and accept them, but do not place unreasonable demands on circumstance or others. Instead, try to determine your motivation, and pursue positive fulfillment instead.