While there aren’t any depression symptoms that occur only in women, some symptoms might be more common in women.
Have you been feeling down recently? Does your low mood come with feelings of hopelessness and less interest in activities that used to bring you happiness? All of these are common symptoms of depression.
While depression can affect anyone, it’s more common in women than in men. In fact, women are almost
Depression can also affect women in different ways. For example, certain symptoms and types of depression tend to be more common in women.
If you’re experiencing symptoms of depression, there is hope — it’s possible to manage these symptoms. Understanding how symptoms may look for you and what types of depression you might experience can be a great place to start.
Depression affects everyone differently. However, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) highlights some symptoms and signs you might notice more often if you’re a woman. These include:
- persistent sadness, anxiety, and “empty” feelings
- feelings of hopelessness
- pessimistic outlook
- feeling guilty, worthless, or helpless
- loss of interest and pleasure in hobbies and activities
- difficulty concentrating, remembering, and making decisions
- thoughts of death or suicide
- thoughts of self-harm
Along with the mental symptoms of depression, there are physical symptoms to look out for:
- fatigue and low energy
- sleep issues, like difficulty sleeping and oversleeping
- moving or talking slowly
- feeling restless
- change in appetite or weight
- aches and pains
- digestive problems
Most of these are also general symptoms of depression, but they may be more likely to show up in combination with other symptoms in women. This could be due to hormonal fluctuations and differences in societal expectations between women and men.
For many women, the early signs of depression can go unnoticed. It can help to know which symptoms might show up first:
Feelings of worthlessness and even self-hatred can be common first signs of depression. You may also feel a sense of guilt that’s inappropriate for the situation you’re in.
Many women report a loss of interest or motivation related to activities they used to enjoy. This could look like less interest in reading when you’re usually an avid reader or a lingering lack of motivation at a job you’re usually passionate about.
Fatigue and sleep problems
Getting enough sleep can feel like an uphill battle. But if your habits haven’t changed and you’re experiencing a sudden and overwhelming lack of energy, you may be experiencing an early symptom of depression.
If you notice sleep issues like sleeping too much, bouts of insomnia, or waking multiple times through the night or too early, these can also be signs of a depressive episode.
While anxiety isn’t the same as depression, it can happen alongside a depressive episode. These signs of anxiety could mean you’re also experiencing depression:
- feeling tense
- feelings of danger, dread, and panic
- rapid heart rate
- rapid breathing
- increased or heavy sweating
- trembling and muscle twitching
- difficulty focusing or thinking clearly about anything except what’s making you anxious
Appetite and weight changes
Especially for women, changes in appetite and weight can present when you experience a depressive episode. You may experience an increase in appetite, and with it, an increase in weight. You might also experience a decrease in appetite and weight.
Mood changes that come with depression can be intense and tend to involve uncomfortable emotions like anger or sadness.
You might have outbursts of anger followed by deep sadness and crying. If you don’t usually experience these kinds of mood changes, depression could be one reason why they’ve started.
The causes of depression in women vary, ranging from physical to social reasons. Understanding where your depression is coming from can help you find the right care strategy for you:
Biology and hormones
Biology and hormones can play into depression for anyone. While it’s a myth that only women can experience depression due to hormones, hormones
Different phases of life might mean your body is experiencing different hormones, like when you’re pregnant or experiencing menopause. These and other biological changes, like perimenopause and menstrual cycles, can all lead to hormonal fluctuations.
Along with hormones, certain health conditions and health-related lifestyle changes can cause depression symptoms:
- chronic illness
- quitting smoking
Like other medical conditions, depression can be passed on via genetics. This means it can run in families. Some research suggests that people with certain genes are more likely to experience depression.
While genetics play a role, so does your environment. Genes and environmental factors can also interact to cause depression.
According to research, women are more likely to internalize (or take on) negative events around them. This can look like feeling guilty or ashamed even when something isn’t your fault.
It turns out that the tendency to internalize negative events is connected to depression. If you tend to focus on and rehash negative thoughts, you might be more likely to experience other depression symptoms or meet the criteria for a depression diagnosis.
Discomfort with body image is also connected to depression in women. One study involving postmenopausal women found negative body image helped predict depression in these women.
Specific social causes could also contribute to the higher rates of depression in women. The way women are raised and expected to act in different cultures could contribute to depression — especially when these expectations clash with your own goals and self.
Some social causes of depression in women could include:
- being taught not to show anger or assertiveness
- lack of support with childcare or household chores
- discrimination in professional settings
- being labeled as “hormonal” or “too emotional” when sharing feelings
- feeling the need to be “small” or not take up too much space
Other risk factors for depression
In addition to other potential causes of depression, these factors could influence how likely you are to experience depression symptoms:
- death of a parent
- job loss
- relationship problems
- divorce or breakup
- abuse during childhood
- certain medications
Women may be more likely than men to live with some types of depression, although anyone can experience them.
If you menstruate, you might be familiar with some symptoms of premenstrual syndrome, aka PMS. But some people experience more intense symptoms along with their monthly cycle.
Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) can involve more intense PMS-like symptoms that interfere with your day-to-day life and routine. PMDD can involve symptoms including:
- depressed mood
- irritability or anger
- difficulty concentrating
- less interest in usual activities
- sleep problems
- feelings of overwhelm
- feeling “out of control”
- appetite changes
- physical symptoms like bloating, joint pain, and breast tenderness
Major depressive disorder (MDD)
One of the most well-known types of depression is major depressive disorder (MDD). MDD is a fairly common condition with symptoms that can affect your day-to-day life. To meet the criteria for MDD, you’ll need to have experienced symptoms for at least 2 weeks.
Persistent depressive disorder (PDD)
When your depression persists for over 2 years, you could be experiencing persistent depressive disorder (PDD).
This involves having a depressed mood for at least 2 years with episodes of major depressive disorder, as well as periods of less severe symptoms.
Peripartum or postpartum depression (PPD)
Pregnancy can affect your hormones and lead to depressive episodes. When you have major depression during your pregnancy or after delivery, you could be experiencing peripartum depression (during) or postpartum depression (PPD) (after).
With PPD, you might experience extreme sadness, anxiety, and exhaustion. This can make it difficult to accomplish daily care tasks for you and a baby.
The psychosis might have a depressive theme, like delusions focused on a feeling of guilt, poverty, or illness.
Seasonal affective disorder
While the clinical term is major depressive disorder with seasonal pattern, most people might know it as seasonal depression.
If you experience seasonal depression, you’ll get depression symptoms during certain times of the year. It’s most common during darker, colder months, but it can also pop up in the spring and summer.
Depending on what time of year you get seasonal depression, you might feel the need to sleep too much, or feel like you’re not getting enough sleep in addition to other common depression symptoms like sadness and apathy.
If you’re experiencing symptoms of depression, there is hope. With options like medication, talk therapy, and home care strategies, you have a great chance of finding a treatment approach that works for you.
If you’d like more ideas on what treatments are a good fit for you, you can get a deeper dive here.