Everyone feels sad occasionally. The blues tend to pass within a couple of days. Yet clinical depression is a common but serious illness that interferes with daily life, causing pain for you and your loved ones. According to National Institute of Mental Health, depression impacts genders and older adults in distinct ways.
Women’s Psychological Challenges
A large study showed that women’s depression risk factors include neuroticism, absence of parental warmth and social support, marital dissatisfaction and divorce. Deficiencies in caring relationships and interpersonal loss defined their depressions. Biological, life cycle, hormonal and psychosocial factors that females face may explain the higher depression rate in women. They’re more likely than men to experience sadness, worthlessness and excessive guilt.
Researchers have found that hormones affect the brain chemistry that controls emotions and mood. Depression may coincide with hormone-related conditions that are unique to the female gender. Some women have premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), a severe form of premenstrual syndrome (PMS). It occurs with the hormonal changes around ovulation and before menstruation begins.
Women are also vulnerable to developing postpartum depression after giving birth. The sudden combination of hormonal and physical changes with the responsibility of caring for a newborn can be overwhelming.
Some women’s depression risks increase during their menopausal transition. Depression also may strike when the bone thinning or loss of osteoporosis does. Scientists are exploring these potential connections and how the cyclical rise and fall of estrogen and other hormones affect female brain chemistry.
Many women face enormous overlapping challenges and multiple stresses from work and home responsibilities, caring for children and aging parents, abuse, poverty and relationship strains. These hurdles may contribute to more American women than men attempting suicide.
What Drives Men’s Dismal Moods
New data linked depression in men to childhood sexual abuse, conduct disorder and drug abuse as well as stressful financial, occupational and legal life events. Failure to achieve expected instrumental goals and lowered self-worth marked their depressions.
Research shows that men are more likely than women to suffer from fatigue, irritability, loss of interest in once-pleasurable activities and sleeping difficulties. They may become frustrated, discouraged, irritable and angry. Some men throw themselves into their work to avoid discussing their depression with family or friends. They may engage in reckless, self-destructive, aggressive and abusive behaviors and be more apt to turn to alcohol or drugs.
Traditional masculinity emphasizes emotional toughness, which is at odds with expressing depression through sadness and crying. Historically, American men are less likely than women to seek treatment for nearly all disorders — including psychological ones. That may be one reason why many more American men than women die from suicide.
Subtle Symptoms Hinder Detection in Older Adults
Depression isn’t a normal part of aging. Studies show that most seniors feel satisfied with their lives, despite having more illnesses or physical problems. But older adults, their families, caregivers and doctors may overlook depression because their symptoms are less obvious. Seniors also may be less likely to experience or admit feelings of sadness or grief.
Distinguishing grief from major depression can be difficult at times. Sorrow is a normal reaction after the loss of a loved one and doesn’t require professional mental health treatment generally. But complicated grief that lasts for a very long time following a loss may require medication and/or psychotherapy. Researchers continue to study the relationship between complex grief and major depression in this population.
Older adults’ serious medical conditions including heart disease, stroke and cancer may cause depressive symptoms. Some seniors may experience vascular depression, which is the same as arteriosclerotic and subcortical ischemic depression. It may result when blood vessels become less flexible, harder and constrict over time. This prevents normal blood flow to the body’s organs including the brain. Seniors with vascular depression may be at risk for or have co-existing heart disease or stroke.
Although you may assume that young people have the highest suicide rates in the United States, white males age 85 and older actually have the highest number. Many have depressive illnesses that health care providers miss, even though they have doctors’ appointments within a month before dying.
Depression Treatment Options
Many depressed people never seek professional evaluation and treatment. Research shows that the longer you delay, the greater your impairment can be down the road. Prescription medications, psychotherapies and/or other treatments can improve even the most severe depression. Abilify (Aripiprazole) and Aventyl (Nortriptyline) balance your brain chemicals to improve depressive symptoms. Simplify your life by ordering all your prescriptions from an online Canadian pharmacy.
How to Feel Better
Taking any action to help yourself may be extremely difficult when you feel exhausted, helpless and hopeless. But as you begin treatment, these practices will feel help you recover.
- Be physically active.
- Set realistic goals for yourself.
- Prioritize what you need to accomplish and divide large tasks into small ones.
- Confide in trusted friends or relatives and accept their help.
- Resume favorite pursuits and events that you enjoyed previously.
- Participate in social interaction.
- Expect your mood to improve gradually — not immediately.
- Postpone major life decisions and events such as marriage, divorce and changing jobs until you can be more objective.
- A positive outlook will replace negative thoughts as you respond to treatment.
- Take all medications and keep all medical and mental health appointments.
- Continue educating yourself about depression.