Spotlight on women’s health — depression

IN acknowledgment of Women’s Month, a series of articles on health issues affecting women, written by Dr Nontobeko Zondi, a female medical practitioner in Kranskop, will be published.

Women are twice as likely to develop clinical depression as men. Up to one in four women is likely to develop or have an episode of major depression at some point in their life. Social factors play a role in causing depression. The increased chance of depression in women may be related to hormonal changes that occur throughout a woman’s life. These changes are evident during puberty, pregnancy, menopause, after giving birth or when experiencing a miscarriage.

Symptoms of major depression disorder (MDD) include low mood; low self-esteem; loss of interest in normally enjoyable activities; low energy; restlessness; irritability; feelings of guilt/worthlessness/ helplessness/pessimism; sleeping too much or the inability to sleep; poor appetite or overeating; difficulty concentrating, remembering or making decisions; thoughts of death, suicide or suicide attempts.

Physical symptoms such as headaches; neck tension; chronic pain and digestive disorders from peptic ulcers, which persist despite treatment, are also common.

Risk factors include a family history of depression, major life changes, certain medications, chronic health problems and drug abuse. Other factors that could increase risk include a loss of a parent at a young age, sexual and physical abuse, poor social support systems, and separation or divorce.

Major depression needs serious attention and a referral to a psychiatrist is crucial in order to get proper and effective treatment. There are also support groups that can assist.