Women and Depression. An All-too-Likely Pair

Statistics note that a lot more women are depressed than men. In fact, the ratio is two to one. Is this an accurate number? Culturally, males are taught that a display of weakness is unmanly. So I wonder how many men who suffer from this disorder hide their feelings and refuse to get help. On the flip side, historically more men than women have been given the chance to become all that they can be.

Whether statistics are accurate or not, what is clear is that many females are depressed. Let’s look at some of the reasons.

Females get pregnant. This, of course, means that they have all these heavy-duty, emotion-arousing hormones racing around. All of which explain why pregnant ladies cry one second and laugh the next. Pregnant women gain weight, sometimes a lot,(I think I gained forty pounds,) and can’t breathe or sleep for about four months.

Females also give birth. After the birth of a child, some women experience postpartum depression due to a change in their hormone levels.

When females allow their aggressive sides to flourish, often they are viewed negatively. When guys let their aggressions fly, they are seen as powerful.

Women stay home to raise children. While most enjoy doing so, many yearn for careers. Careers do much to boost self-esteem and child-rearing is often denied career status.

Typically, it is the mother who raises the kids. And kids are hard to raise. Kids go through latency when all their hormones start to soar, then they go through adolescence, where their primary jobs are to rebel so as to form their own identities. Then, just when kids are getting it all together, they leave home, leaving a huge hole in mama’s heart and her sense of identity. While some would argue, it seems women experience more of a loss when there is an’ empty nest.’ 

Females are known for their connections to others. In our mobile and technological society, it is no longer the norm for extended families to live together. Thus, it is very possible that mom lives on one side of the country and children live on another.

Men who are aggressive, competitive and determined are seen as strong. Females who are aggressive, competitive and determined are often looked down upon.

In many societies, older men with graying hair and wrinkles are perceived as distinguished while their counterparts are perceived perceived as old.

It is easier for older guys who go through divorce or widowhood to find partners then for older females. It is societally acceptable for an older man to go after a younger, even much younger, woman. It is more unusual for the ladies to do the same. Consequently, there are more older females who are living alone. 

Women live longer than men. The most recent statistics I have seen has average life expectancy for men to be around seventy six years of age, while for females it is eighty one years. Thus, females have more time to be alone.

HELPING WOMEN WHO ARE DEPRESSED

How can we best help women who are depressed?

Most important to most females are connections, close personal relationships, and family. I believe this is the first place to look for answers when helping a woman who is depressed. Isolation is dangerous.

Many of my female clients are without partners. Some lament that they don’t have friends to do things with because many of their friends are married. One of the first things I suggest to these clients is to find others with whom to do things. With the divorce rate hovering at fifty to sixty percent, there are ample number of single people. So where does a female without a partner find a friend? There are many answers: community groups; biking, walking, book clubs; church groups; PTA; play groups; the gym; adult education classes; travel clubs; Elder Hostel… A partner is not necessary to eliminate lonliness if there are friends.

Women like to talk and share so support groups for divorced or widowed females are very helpful. Finding support groups is often as easy as looking in the community newspapers or calling local hospitals.

Almost all people feel best when they are productive. So often suggesting to the woman that she get a full or part-time job is a good idea.

Volunteer. When women get depressed, they become preoccupied with their own problems. Their depression paints their world. When they volunteer, they realize that other people have problems too, and sometimes these problems are bigger than theirs.

Exercise. It releases endorphins and makes the body look better.

Therapy. I’m biased, but therapy can be wonderful. It gives people a chance to explore who they are and grow, without being judged.

Medication. Don’t let her be stubborn. Remind her that if she has a headache, she takes aspirin. If she needs medication, encourage her to take it. It doesn’t have to be forever.

Animals are fabulous for all people. I know several people whose significant others have four legs. Animal companions make people very happy.

Learn something new. I talk about this in my book. People feel most alive when they are challenged. Most of us spend much of our time doing things we have done over and over. After awhile, we get bored, feel stale. Suggest to the woman that she challenge herself. What has she always wanted to learn? How to paint? A new language? How to play guitar? Encourage her to spend a few hours a week learning something new.