woman with head in hand considering major depression in women

Major Depressive Disorder in Women

Major depressive disorder is the term doctors use to officially describe one of America’s most common mental health issues: major depression. Research indicates that there’s a higher chance of major depression in women occurring than in men. That’s true, in part, because women have gender-specific risks for a condition called postpartum depression, which sometimes meets the criteria for a major depressive disorder diagnosis. Women tend to seek help for their depressive symptoms more often than men.

Treating depression is possible, but it’s easier with assistance from Promises Behavioral Health’s depression treatment program. Call us at 844.875.5609 today to learn how to manage your depression effectively.

What Is Major Depressive Disorder?

Major depressive disorder gets its name because it is the most severe type of depressive illness. Everyone who meets the criteria for a diagnosis of this disorder experiences at least five out of nine specific symptoms for two weeks or longer. These symptoms are:

  • A predominantly “down” or depressed mood
  • Seriously declining interest in normally enjoyable activities
  • Unexplained changes in your weight
  • Unusual sleeplessness or sleepiness
  • Physical fatigue
  • Aimless, uncontrolled body movements
  • The presence of damaging emotions such as worthlessness, helplessness, or guilt
  • Concentration problems and other thinking difficulties, and
  • Suicidal thinking, planning and/or action, or a more general preoccupation with death

Some people only experience one bout of major depression or bouts that only recur occasionally. However, other people experience more frequently recurring symptoms.

Frequency of Major Depressive Disorder in Women

Research indicates that women have roughly a 100% higher chance of experiencing major depression than men, regardless of their financial means or racial/ethnic background. However, no one really knows for sure if this figure is entirely accurate. That’s true largely because women affected by depression have substantially greater odds of seeking help. Men, in general, feel less inclined to receive a diagnosis, especially in cases of mental health, in no small part to the attached stigma of mental health care being a sign of weakness. Gender differences in this area may help mask the presence of diagnosable major depression in a significant percentage of affected men.

Cases of major depression in women also have a higher chance of worsening seasonally or occurring in tandem with major life-changing events. The most widely shared “life-changing event” for women specifically is pregnancy and the postpartum period. Women are subjected to significant bodily disruptions during this time that can worsen existing depressive disorders or induce new ones.

Postpartum Major Depression

However, women do have unique depression risks associated with the postpartum period following childbirth. In some cases, postpartum symptoms are present but don’t reach the severity required for a major depression diagnosis. In other cases, these symptoms do meet the criteria for the illness. A 2010 study in the journal American Family Physician indicates that the overall postpartum rates of major depression in women (5% to 7%) are actually not very different from the rates found in women in general. However, the same study found that certain postpartum women have much higher risks for the condition. You fall into this elevated risk group if you:

  • Have experienced postpartum major depression in the past
  • Have had previous bouts of major depression outside of the postpartum period
  • Have a postpartum major depression family history
  • Experience highly stressful or traumatic events while pregnant, or
  • Lack an adequate support system during postpartum recovery

You may also have increased risks of developing postpartum major depression if you give birth to twins, triplets, etc., or if you develop gestational diabetes during pregnancy. The official term for postpartum major depression is a major depressive disorder with peripartum onset. Women with this condition tend to make up a substantial portion of the patients in the typical women’s depression treatment center.

Your Depression Matters at Promises Behavioral Health

The hardest part of recovery for any psychiatric disorder is making the first step to receiving treatment. The longer you wait, the more you may be inclined to feel that managing depression alone is the only option, but that just isn’t true. Promises Behavioral Health emphasizes the role that your prior life experiences might have played in your depression and can treat it best accordingly. Don’t try to manage your symptoms on your own. Contact us at 844.875.5609 today to learn how you can take your major depression into your own hands.


National Institute of Mental Health: Depression

Mayo Clinic: Depression (Major Depressive Disorder)

American Family Physician: Postpartum Major Depression

Pearson Clinical: Major Depressive Disorder – DSM-5 Diagnostic Criteria

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