Depression in Women

Depression in Women

Here are the facts about depression in women: In the U.S., about 15 million people experience depression each year. The majority of them are women. Unfortunately, nearly two-thirds do not get the help they need.

Depression in women is very common. In fact, women are twice as likely to develop clinical depression as men. Up to one in four women is likely to have an episode of major depression at some point in life.

 

Clinical depression is a serious and pervasive mood disorder. It causes feelings of sadness, hopelessness, helplessness, and worthlessness. Depression can be mild to moderate with symptoms of apathy, little appetite, difficulty sleeping, low self-esteem, and low-grade fatigue. Or it can be more severe.

Symptoms of depression in women include:

Mania is a highly energized state with elevated mood that can occur in bipolar disorder. Moods in bipolar disorder swing over the course of days or weeks or months from the lows of depression to the highs of mania. Even though mania is an elevated mood, it is serious and needs medical assessment and treatment.

The symptoms of mania include:

 

Before adolescence, depression is rare and occurs at about the same rate in girls and boys. However, with the onset of puberty, a girl’s risk of developing depression increases dramatically to twice that of boys.

Some experts believe that the increased chance of depression in women may be related to changes in hormone levels that occur throughout a woman’s life. These changes are evident during puberty, pregnancy, and menopause, as well as after giving birth or experiencing a miscarriage. In addition, the hormone fluctuations that occur with each month’s menstrual cycle probably contribute to premenstrual syndrome, or PMS, and premenstrual dysphoric disorder, or PMDD — a severe syndrome marked especially by depression, anxiety, and mood swings that occurs the week before menstruation and interferes with normal functioning of daily life.

According to the National Institutes of Health, factors that increase the risk of depression in women include reproductive, genetic, or other biological factors; interpersonal factors; and certain psychological and personality characteristics. In addition, women juggling work with raising kids and women who are single parents suffer more stress that may trigger symptoms of depression. Other factors that could increase risk include:

Women can also get postpartum depression after the birth of a baby. Some people get seasonal affective disorder in the winter. Depression is one part of bipolar disorder.

Depression can run in families. When it does, it generally starts between ages 15 and 30. A family link to depression is much more common in women. However, there is not always an apparent genetic or hereditary link to explain why someone may develop clinical depression.

Depression in women differs from depression in men in several ways:

 

 

As many as three out of every four menstruating women experience premenstrual syndrome or PMS. PMS is a disorder characterized by emotional and physical symptoms that fluctuate in intensity from one menstrual cycle to the next. Women in their 20s or 30s are usually affected.

About 3% to 5% of menstruating women experience premenstrual dysphoric disorder, or PMDD. PMDD is a severe form of PMS, marked by highly emotional and physical symptoms that usually become more severe seven to 10 days before the onset of menstruation.

In the last decade, these conditions have become recognized as important causes of discomfort and behavioral change in women. While the precise link between PMS, PMDD, and depression is still unclear, abnormalities in the functioning of brain circuits that regulate mood, along with fluctuating hormone levels are both thought to be contributing factors.

Many women who suffer with depression along with PMS or PMDD find improvement through exercise or meditation. For individuals with severe symptoms, medicine, individual or group psychotherapy, or stress management may be helpful. Your primary care doctor or Ob-Gyn is a good place to start. Your doctor can screen you for depression and treat your symptoms.

Pregnancy was once assumed to be a period of well-being that protected women against psychiatric disorders. But depression in women occurs almost as commonly in pregnant women as it does in those who are not pregnant. The factors which increase the risk of depression in women during pregnancy are:

The potential impact of depression on a pregnancy includes the following:

Pregnancy may have the following impact on depression in women:

 

Preparing for a new baby is lots of hard work. But your health should come first. Resist the urge to get everything done, cut down on your chores, and do things that will help you relax. In addition, talking about things that concern you is very important. Talk to your friends, your partner, and your family. If you ask for support, you will find you often get it.

If you’re feeling down and anxious, consider seeking therapy. Ask your doctor or midwife for a referral to a mental health care professional.

Growing evidence suggests that many of the currently available antidepressant medicines, including most SSRIs (except for Paxil), appear to have minimal (if any) risks when treating depression during pregnancy, at least in terms of the potential short-term effects on the baby. Long-term effects continue to be studied. Risks can differ depending on medication as well as many other factors during a pregnancy that can endanger a developing fetus. Untreated depression can put both mother and infant at risk. Often, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is considered to be the safest and most effective treatment for severe depression during pregnancy.

You should discuss the possible risks and benefits of treatment with your doctor.

Postpartum depression, or depression following childbirth, can be treated like other forms of depression. That means using medicines and/or psychotherapy. If a woman is breastfeeding, the decision to take an antidepressant should be made with the baby’s pediatrician along with her own psychiatrist after a discussion of risks and benefits. Most antidepressants are expressed in very small amounts in breast milk and their possible effects on a nursing infant, if any, are not well understood.

Perimenopause is the stage of a woman’s reproductive life that typically begins in her 40s (or earlier for some) and lasts until menstruation has ceased for a year (and a woman is considered to be in menopause). In the last one to two years of perimenopause, the decrease in estrogen accelerates. At this stage, many women experience menopausal symptoms.

Menopause is the period of time when a woman stops having her monthly period and experiences symptoms related to the lack of estrogen production. By definition, a woman is in menopause after her periods have stopped for one year. Menopause typically occurs in a woman’s late 40s to early 50s. However, women who have their ovaries surgically removed undergo “sudden” menopause.

The drop in estrogen levels during perimenopause and menopause triggers physical and emotional changes — such as depression or anxiety. Like at any other point in a woman’s life, there is a relationship between hormone levels and physical and emotional symptoms. Some physical changes include irregular or skipped periods, heavier or lighter periods, and hot flashes.

There are many ways you can ease menopause symptoms and maintain your health. These tips include ways to cope with mood swings, fears, and depression:

 

There are a variety of methods used to treat depression, including medications such as antidepressants, brain stimulation techniques like ECT, and individual psychotherapy.

Family therapy may be helpful if family stress adds to your depression. Your mental health care provider or primary care doctor will determine the best course of treatment for you. If you are uncertain whom to call for help with depression, consider checking out the following resources:

SOURCES:

National Institute of Mental Health: “Depression: What Every Woman Should Know” and “Depression.”

FDA: “The Lowdown on Depression” and “Understanding Antidepressant Medications.” 

American Psychiatric Association, Practice Guideline for the Treatment of Patients with Major Depression, 2000. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: DSM-IV-TR, American Psychiatric Pub, 2000.

Fieve, R, MD. Bipolar II, Rodale Books, 2006.

WebMD: Menopause Health Center.

The Journal of the American Medical Association. “Recommendations for Screening Depression in Adults,” Vol. 315, No. 4, January 26, 2016.

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11 Surprising Sneezing Facts

11 Surprising Sneezing Facts

How fast does a sneeze travel? Can sex and sunshine make you sneeze? Get the strange sneezing facts.

Larissa Stouffer of Melrose, Mass., usually sneezes not once, not twice, but three times. She sneezes as she gets into a car if it’s sunny outside, but not when it’s cloudy; her dad does the same thing. And as soon as she pops some mint chewing gum into her mouth, out comes an achoo.

Stouffer, 30, isn’t the only one with a fickle nose. Many people sneeze at peculiar moments — such as after exercise, plucking their eyebrows, in the sunshine, or after sex.

Here are the reasons why they sneeze at odd times, and why all of us sneeze in the first place.

1. “Sneezes start in your nerves,”

says Neil Kao, MD, an allergy and asthma specialist at the Allergic Disease and Asthma Center in Greenville, S.C.

Everyone’s nervous system is basically wired in the same way, Kao explains. But signals traveling along nerves can take slightly different paths to and from the brain, resulting in different sneeze scenarios from person to person.

“It’s a nerve transmission that tells your brain something is in your nose that needs to come out,” Kao tells WebMD.

2. Sneezing helps keep your body safe.

Sneezing is an important part of the immune process, helping to keep us healthy and sniffle-free” Kao says.

Sneezes protect your body by clearing the nose of bacteria and viruses, Kao explains. When something enters your nose or you encounter a trigger that sets off your “sneeze center” in your brain, located in the lower brain stem, signals are rapidly sent to tightly close your throat, eyes, and mouth. Next, your chest muscles vigorously contract, and then your throat muscles quickly relax. As result, air — along with saliva and mucus — is forced out of your mouth and nose. Voila, you’ve sneezed.

3. Sneezes are speedy.

“Sneezes travel at about 100 miles per hour,” says Patti Wood, author of

Success Signals: Understanding Body Language

. She adds that a single sneeze can send 100,000 germs into the air.

4. Plucking your eyebrows may make you sneeze.

Plucking may set off a nerve in your face that supplies your nasal passages. As a result, you sneeze.

5. You don’t sneeze in your sleep.

When you sleep, so do your sneezing nerves — which means you usually don’t sneeze when you doze.

6. Your workout may make you sneeze.

Exercise can make you sneeze,” Kao says. “You hyperventilate when you’re over-exerted, and as a result, your nose and mouth start to dry up. So your nose reacts by starting to drip, making you sneeze.”

7. The longest sneezing spree:

978 days, a record set by Donna Griffiths of Worcestershire, England, according to background information on the Library of Congress’ web site.

8. Sunshine may make you sneeze.

“Bright sunlight causes one out of three people to sneeze,” Wood says. “The light sneezers are called ‘photics,’ from the Greek meaning ‘of light.’ And in fact, light sensitivity is an inherited trait — just one more thing we can blame on our parents.”

9. Sex can be a sneezing trigger.

Have sex, must sneeze? It happens more often than you might think. Researchers believe that the stimulation of the parasympathetic nervous system fires off signals in some people to not only enjoy the act of sex, but to sneeze when it’s over.

10. The sneeziest animal:

the iguana. Iguanas sneeze more often and more productively than any other animal, according to Wood’s research. Sneezing is how they rid their bodies of certain salts that are the normal byproduct of their digestive process, Woods says.

11. How do you stop a sneeze

? While it’s not foolproof, “Try breathing through your mouth and pinching the end of your nose,” Kao says.

Strange sneezing facts aside, there are some beliefs about sneezing that just aren’t true.

For instance, it’s not true that your heart stops when you sneeze. When your chest contracts because of a sneeze, your blood flow is momentarily constricted as well. As a result, the rhythm of your heart may change, but it definitely doesn’t stop.

And your eyeballs cannot pop out of your head when you sneeze. Most people naturally close their eyes when they sneeze, but if they are able to keep them open, their eyes stay firmly planted in their heads where they belong. “While a person’s blood pressure behind the eyes may increase slightly when he sneezes, it’s not enough force to dislodge the eyeballs from the head,” Kao says.

Wood has heard of other sneezing folklore, including the notion that if you sneeze, company is coming over, and if your cat sneezes, it’s going to rain.

As for the blessing many people say after someone sneezes, Wood explains that the Greek word for sneeze is “pneuma,” which means “soul or spirit.”

“A post-sneeze blessing stems from the ancient belief that sneezing is a near-death experience, and that a blessing will prevent your soul or sneeze from escaping your body and will deter the devil from entering in,” Wood says.

SOURCES:

Larissa Stouffer, 30, Melrose, Mass.

Neil Kao, MD, allergy and asthma specialist, Allergic Disease and Asthma
Center, Greenville, S.C.

Patti Wood, author, Success Signals: Understanding Body Language.

Library of Congress: “Everyday Mysteries: Fun Science Facts from the Library
of Congress.”

Bhutta, M. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, December 2008;
vol 101: pp 587-591.

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Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: Causes of ADHD

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: Causes of ADHD

No one knows exactly what causes ADHD, but certain things are known to play a role.

ADHD runs in families. Anywhere from one-third to one-half of parents with ADHD will have a child with the disorder. There are genetic characteristics that seem to be passed down.

If a parent has ADHD, a child has more than a 50% chance of having it. If an older sibling has it, a child has more than a 30% chance.

Children born with a low birth weight, born premature, or whose mothers had difficult pregnancies have a higher risk of having ADHD. The same is true for children with head injuries to the frontal lobe of the brain, the area that controls impulses and emotions.

Studies show that pregnant women who smoke or drink alcohol may have a higher risk of having a child with ADHD. Exposure to lead, PCBs, or pesticides may also have a role.

Researchers believe that some toxins may interfere with brain development. That, they say, could lead to hyperactivity, impulsive behavior, and trouble paying attention.

Although it’s been debated, research does not show that ADHD is linked to eating too much sugar or watching a lot of TV.

Studies show that brain chemicals, called neurotransmitters, don’t work the same in children and adults with ADHD. There also tend to be differences in the way nerve pathways work.

Certain parts of the brain may be less active or smaller in children with ADHD than those without the disorder.

The brain chemical dopamine may also play a role. It carries signals between nerves in the brain and is linked to movement, sleep, mood, attention, and learning.

SOURCES:

CHADD: “What Causes ADHD?;” ”Causes and Brain Chemistry;” and “New Understandings of ADHD.”

The ADHD Genetic Research Study at the National Institutes of Health and the National Health Genome Research Institute: “General Information about ADHD” and “Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.”

Mayo Clinic: “Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children.”

Some say it’s the hardest part of life with ADHD.

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Taking Prescription Medications During Pregnancy

Taking Prescription Medications During Pregnancy

Some medications are considered safe to take during pregnancy. The effects of other meds on your unborn baby are unknown. Therefore, it is very important to pay special attention to medications you take while you are pregnant. That’s especially true during the first trimester, a crucial time of development for your baby.

Were you taking prescription meds before you became pregnant? If so, ask your doctor about the safety of continuing these medications. Do this as soon as you find out that you are pregnant. Or if you are planning your pregnancy, talk with your doctor before you become pregnant.

Your doctor will weigh the benefit to you and the risk to your baby when making recommendations about a certain medication. With some meds, the risk of not taking them may be more serious than the potential risk associated with taking them.

Inform your doctor that you are pregnant if your doctor prescribes a new medication. Before taking it, be sure to discuss the risks and benefits of the newly prescribed medication with your doctor.

SOURCES:

CDC: “Medications and Pregnancy.”

Womenshealth.gov: Pregnancy and medicines fact sheet.

American Family Physician: “Over-the-Counter Medications in Pregnancy.”

Cleveland Clinic: “Medication Guidelines During Pregnancy.”

RxList web site.

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Family & Pregnancy

Family & Pregnancy

Your complete guide to raising a family: Learn what to expect from conception through birth, and get expert parenting advice for each stage in your child’s development.

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Family & Pregnancy

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Getting Pregnant

Getting Pregnant

The time to start working toward a healthy pregnancy is before you conceive. Learn strategies for getting pregnant, and how to prepare for pregnancy.

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