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Women And Mental Health: Understanding The Gender Depression Gap


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signs of depression in women

When it comes to mental health, women face unique challenges that contribute to higher rates of depression compared to men. This gender disparity in mental health outcomes, often referred to as the “gender depression gap,” highlights the need for greater understanding and support for women’s mental health. On a more positive note, there are innovative therapies for depression that work especially well for women. Let’s examine the gender depression gap, the signs and symptoms of depression in women, and treatment options.

Recognizing Signs Of Depression In Women

Signs of depression in women can vary. Although common symptoms of depression can be experienced by any gender, studies have shown that societal gender roles influence how depression is expressed: men are more likely to express anger and engage in risky behavior, whereas women are more likely to express traditional signs of sadness, such as crying, or experience disrupted eating patterns (1). 

Common symptoms of depression in women include:

  • A persistent sense of emptiness or lingering sadness.
  • Diminished interest in activities you used to enjoy.
  • Fluctuations in appetite or weight.
  • Struggling with sleep, whether it’s insomnia or oversleeping.
  • Fatigue and low energy levels.
  • Excessive feelings of low self-worth and guilt.
  • Finding it challenging to concentrate or make decisions.
  • Irritability or restlessness.
  • Thoughts of death or suicide.
  • Chronic pain, headaches, or digestive issues.

If you are experiencing several of the symptoms above for an extended period, it’s essential to recognize the signs and seek professional help as early as possible. Depression is a treatable condition, and many people find relief through medical intervention. Depression treatment methods include talk therapy and antidepressant medications as well as newer techniques such as transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS).

Are you a candidate for TMS?

Depression In Women

Studies consistently show that women are twice as likely as men to experience depression. This disparity is believed to be influenced by a combination of biological, psychological, and socio-cultural factors. Hormonal fluctuations, such as those experienced during menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause, can contribute to mood disturbances in women (2). 

However, biological sex differences do not tell the whole story. Societal expectations, restrictive gender roles, and experiences of discrimination and gender-based violence can contribute to feelings of stress, low self-esteem, and depression in women (3, 4).

Some types of depression are more commonly experienced by women due to the hormonal changes that women experience throughout puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, and childbirth. These include the following:

  • Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) is a severe form of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) characterized by significant mood disturbances, such as extreme sadness, irritability, or mood swings, in the week or two before menstruation.
  • Perinatal Depression includes depression during pregnancy (antenatal depression) and after childbirth (postpartum depression). Hormonal fluctuations, changes in sleep patterns, and the challenges of adjusting to motherhood contribute to perinatal depression.
  • Perimenopausal Depression occurs during the transitional phase leading up to menopause. Fluctuating hormone levels during perimenopause can affect mood and contribute to depressive symptoms.

TMS Therapy For Depression In Women

If you have tried antidepressants and still experience your symptoms, then TMS may be a good option for you. TMS is a non-invasive treatment that uses tiny magnetic pulses to stimulate specific areas of the brain, offering a drug-free alternative for depression patients who have not found relief with traditional medications. TMS may be an especially effective depression treatment for women as: 

  • Research indicates that women are more likely than men to respond to TMS therapy and achieve remission (5).
  • Other studies have shown that it does not pose any additional risks to pregnant women (6).

TMS therapy costs can be covered by insurance, and its long-term success rate can make it more affordable than antidepressants over time. See our article on TMS reviews for some real-life experiences from patients.

Discrimination In Mental Health Treatment

Despite the higher prevalence of depression in women, they often face barriers to accessing appropriate mental health care. Women may encounter discrimination or dismissive attitudes from healthcare providers, leading to underdiagnosis and undertreatment of mental health conditions. Additionally, the stigma surrounding mental illness in many cultures can prevent women from seeking help or disclosing their symptoms, further exacerbating their suffering (7). 

Empowering Women’s Mental Health

To address the gender depression gap and improve mental health outcomes for women, it is crucial to raise awareness, challenge stereotypes, and promote gender-sensitive approaches to mental health care. This includes providing education and resources tailored to women’s unique needs, advocating for policies that support women’s mental health, and ensuring equal access to quality mental health services. We encourage everyone to openly discuss their mental health issues with their support network and seek treatment as early as possible—nothing is more important than your health.

Seeking Help With Madison Avenue TMS & Psychiatry

If you or a loved one is struggling with depression, anxiety, or other mental health concerns, know that you’re not alone, and help is available. Madison Avenue TMS & Psychiatry offers compassionate therapy and TMS for depression and other mental health conditions. We take women’s mental health issues seriously and believe that no one in need of care should be left behind or ignored.

Are you ready to try TMS?

Don’t let depression or stigma hold you back from living a fulfilling life. Our experienced team of professionals is committed to providing compassionate care and support to help you overcome obstacles and reclaim your mental well-being.

Contact Madison Avenue TMS & Psychiatry today via our website or call (212) 731-2033 to schedule a consultation and take the first step toward healing and empowerment. Together, we can bridge the gender-depression gap and promote mental health equity for people of all genders, everywhere.


Resources:

  1. Macdonald JA, Greenwood CJ, Francis LM, Harrison TR, Graeme LG, Youssef GJ, Di Manno L, Skouteris H, Fletcher R, Knight T, Williams J, Milgrom J and Olsson CA. Profiles of Depressive Symptoms and Anger in Men: Associations With Postpartum Family Functioning. Front. Psychiatry. 2020;11:578114. Link. Accessed February 20, 2024.
  2. Kropp, D. R., & Hodes, G. E. Sex differences in depression: An immunological perspective. Brain Research Bulletin. 2023;196, 34-45. Link. Accessed February 20, 2024.
  3. Hyde, Janet S. PhD; Mezulis, Amy H. PhD. Gender Differences in Depression: Biological, Affective, Cognitive, and Sociocultural Factors. Harvard Review of Psychiatry. 2020;28(1):p 4-13. Link. Accessed February 20, 2024.
  4. Fatima Batool. Gender Discrimination At Workplace And Mental Health Of Women: A Systematic Literature Review. PalArch’s Journal of Archaeology of Egypt / Egyptology. 2020;17(8), 622-633. Link. Accessed February 20, 2024.
  5. Hanlon CA and McCalley DM. Sex/Gender as a Factor That Influences Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Treatment Outcome: Three Potential Biological Explanations. Front. Psychiatry. 2022;13:869070. Link. Accessed February 20, 2024.
  6. Kim, DR. Wang, E., McGeehan, B., Snell, J., Ewing, G., Iannelli, C., O’Reardon, JP., Sammel, C., Epperson, N. Randomized controlled trial of transcranial magnetic stimulation in pregnant women with major depressive disorder. Brain Stimulation. 2019;12 (1), 96-102. Link. Accessed February 20, 2024.
  7. Mizock, L., & Brubaker, M. Treatment experiences with gender and discrimination among women with serious mental illness. Psychological Services. 2021;18(1), 64–72. Link. Accessed February 20, 2024.
Dr. Woo has been seeing patients in private practice since 2002, always with the goals of combining evidence-based medicine with psychodynamic psychotherapy and collaborating with other mental health professionals to ensure the best possible outcomes for his patients. He has been certified to administer TMS at his practice since 2017. His greatest clinical interests include helping patients suffering from depression, anxiety, and obsessive compulsive disorder.


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