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May 25, 2017  
UTERINE NEWS: Feature Story

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  • The Lady has the Blues – Women and Depression

    The Lady has the Blues – Women and Depression


    June 21, 2006

    Part 1: The Problem

    By: Jean Johnson for Uterus1

    Anxiety, low self-esteem, guilt and obsessive thoughts of suicide: We really wish we weren’t talking about these problems in terms of women’s health, but unfortunately depression is a gender thing.

    Twice as many women experience depression as men, says a conservative estimate by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Other researchers have pegged the difference as high as three times. Worse, it’s not just women. Girls from 14 to 18 have consistently higher rates of depression than boys. And as if it weren’t bad enough already with the double whammy of high rates of depression and anxiety, women suffer nine times as often as men from eating disorders.

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    The Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital suggests the following as symptoms of depression or mood disorders:
  • The Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital suggests the following as symptoms of depression or mood disorders:
  • Persistent feelings of sadness.
  • Having low self-esteem.
  • Excessive guilt.
  • Feelings of wanting to die.
  • Loss of interest in usual activities or activities once enjoyed.
  • Difficulty with relationships, sleep disturbances such as insomnia or hypersomnia.
  • Changes in appetite or weight.
  • Decreased energy.
  • Difficulty concentrating.
  • A decrease in the ability to make decisions.
  • Suicidal thoughts or attempts.
  • Frequent physical complaints such as headache, stomach ache, and fatigue.
  • Irritability, hostility, aggression.


  • Any way you cut the deck, the cards for experiencing joy and happiness are clearly cut against the fairer sex. At some point in their lives, one in eight women will wind up depressed “feeling exhausted, worthless, helpless and hopeless,” notes the NIMH.

    The institute goes on to describe common symptoms of depression. It’s a list that makes a person shudder in fear: “Persistent sad, anxious or ‘empty’ moods; loss of interest or pleasure in activities including sex; restlessness, irritability, or excessive crying; feelings of guilt and pessimism; sleeping too much or too little; appetite and/or weight loss or overeating and weight gain; decreased energy, fatigue, feeling ‘slowed down;’ difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions; thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts; persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, such as headaches, digestive disorders and chronic pain.”

    But, before you rush out to have a sex change operation, stick around. It’s true, depression is a miserable bearcat of a deep dark vortex, but it can be treated and resolved. Women suffering from depression can look forward to healing, a topic we will cover in the second part of this series. First, however, it’s useful to understand what the professionals are saying about women and depression.


    Reasons Why Women Are More Susceptible to Depression

    Basically, women suffer disproportionately from depression (or put more benignly, mood disorders) because both nature and nurture seem to be stacked against them.

    Hormones

    Hormones, on the one hand, don’t help the cause – and are a significant reason why post-menopausal women experience more freedom from depression than their younger counterparts. (Depression occurs most frequently in women ages 25 to 44.) But hormones are only part of the answer as women who are fortunate enough to live as matriarchs know.

    Societal Oppression

    In response to a young, divorced Anglo woman who explained that when she was married she forgot who she was and grew depressed, Alfreda Secakuku, a Hopi woman of Kykotsmovi, Ariz., observed, “It’s too bad you weren’t born Hopi. You wouldn’t feel that way.”

    Indeed, during this writer’s decade of residence within the Hopi and Navajo societies – both of which are matriarchal where the women control the purse strings and have dignity – she saw more genuinely happy marriages than she ever had witnessed in her own culture. She attributes this dynamic to the fact that the matriarchal women share power and decision-making right along side the men and thus, are respected as responsible, intelligent adults.

    The point is, of course, that the subjugation of women in mainstream Western society and the ensuing verbal, emotional, and physical abuse it has spawned, is also central to the inordinate rates of depression seen in females.

    C. Diane Ealy, Ph.D. concurs in her work, The Women’s Cook of Creativity. There she writes, “Many studies have shown us that a young girl’s ideas are frequently discounted by her peers and teachers. In response, she stifles her creativity.” Ealy goes on to argue that “Perhaps the most insidious and common manifestation of repressed creativity in women is depression.”

    Similarly, the internationally recognized education consultant Annemarie Roeper wrote about the difficulties women face in the Advanced Development Journal: “Unsupportive environments can lead to depression, to the suppression of one’s abilities, even to feelings of depression that could become self-destructive.”

    Sexism, then, just like racism, exacts a terrible cost. Any time one human being persecutes another – even if they are married and share the same bed – problems will arise. The sad thing is that members of subjugated groups so often believe what their oppressors tell them and thus turn their rage inward on their already wounded souls. The result is a brutal prison of emotion that is exceptionally difficult to escape. Enter depression.

    Stress

    “Stress in general can contribute to depression in persons biologically vulnerable to the illness. Some have theorized that higher incidence of depression in women is not due to greater vulnerability, but to the particular stresses that many women face,” states the NIMH. “These stresses include major responsibilities at home and work, single parenthood, and caring for children and aging parents. How these factors may uniquely affect women is not yet fully understood.”

    Maybe, but Joan Coates of Missoula, Mont., says she doesn’t need or want more studies. “Excuse me?” she said in response to the NIMH findings. “Brand me yet another jaundiced divorcee if you want, but back when I was married here’s how it went: We both worked – hubby and me – but in the evening when we got home, he kicked back in his reading chair in the living room and read the paper or one of several books he always seemed able to get finished. And everyone loved him; he was always so easy going and pleasant and had things from all his reading to visit about.

    “For my part, I was in the kitchen making dinner. Don’t get me wrong, I love to cook, but it would have been awfully nice to have some help so that once dinner was done and the dishes out of the way, I, too, might have had time to fill my mind with some thing else than half teaspoons of this and that, or whether the new earth-friendly dishwasher soap was getting my dishes clean,” said Coates.

    “The sad thing is that now that I’m on my own, it’s not really much better because I still have to do everything. (Although I do have two newspapers and a good dozen magazine subscriptions coming to the house, I’m lucky if I get to read a page or two out of each one.) I guess women – at least women who don’t have enough money to hire domestic help (which if I could, I’d look for a male) – are just programmed to make sure all the grunt work is done before they sit down to read or do anything that might rejuvenate their minds. It’s a hardwiring that I wish I could undo. I think I’d be a lot happier if I thought about things other than what’s on my endless to-do list.”

    Continued in Part two


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    If you enjoyed this article, you might also be interested in the following:
    Perimenopause and Depression: Risks and Symptoms
    Menopause and Depression - Jury Still Out On The Connection
    More Reason to Worry? Women and Anxiety/Panic Disorders

    Last updated: 21-Jun-06

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