Signs & Symptoms   |   Causes   |   Treatment   |

Questions to Ask   |   Self-Care

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Depression is a state of sadness and despair. Like diabetes, depression is a real medical illness. One-fourth of women have a major bout with depression sometime during their lives.


Signs & Symptoms

•  Feeling sad, hopeless, helpless, and/or worthless.

•  Fatigue. Loss of interest in life.

•  Having a hard time concentrating or making decisions.

•  Changes in eating and sleeping patterns.

•  Acting very cranky. Anger. Anxiety.

•  Thoughts of suicide or death.

The number of symptoms and how severe they are vary from person to person.


Most likely, depression is caused by a mix of:  A family history of the illness; brain chemical problems; emotional issues; and other factors, such as a medical illness or alcohol abuse.


Another cause is seasonal affective disorder (SAD). With this, depression occurs between late fall and early spring due to a lack of natural sunlight.


In some persons, extreme stress, trauma, grief, etc. may bring on depression. In others, depression occurs even when life is going well.


In general, depression is noted twice as often in women than in men due to these reasons:

•  Women tend to express their feelings more openly than men. This makes it more likely they will seek treatment for depression.

•  Hormonal changes women undergo:

– Premenstrually, during menopause, or when taking medicines with hormones.

– During and especially after childbirth or when a woman stops breast-feeding.

– With health conditions that affect a woman’s hormones, such as some ovarian cysts, endometriosis, etc.


Whatever the cause, depression can be treated. Treatment includes medication(s), counseling, and self-care measures. Exposure to bright lights similar to sunlight can treat depression caused by SAD.


A doctor should be seen for diagnosis and treatment.

Questions to Ask


•  Take medications as prescribed. Get your doctor’s advice before you take over-the-counter herbs, such as St. John’s Wort, especially if you take other medications.

•  Don’t use illegal drugs. Limit alcohol. These can cause or worsen depression. Drugs and alcohol can also make medicines for depression less effective. Harmful side effects can happen when alcohol and/or drugs are mixed with medicine.

•  Eat healthy foods. Eat at regular times. Don’t skip meals or binge on junk food. Limit caffeine and sugary foods.

•  Exercise regularly.

•  Try not to isolate yourself. Be with people you feel safe with even though you feel down.

•  Do something you enjoy. Do things that let you express yourself. Write, paint, etc.

•  Relax. Listen to soft music, take a warm bath or shower. Do relaxation exercises.

•  Keep an emergency number handy (e.g., crisis hotline, trusted friend’s number, etc.) in case you feel desperate.

This website is not meant to substitute for expert medical advice or treatment. Follow your doctor’s or health care provider’s advice if it differs from what is given in this guide.


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