Women and Depression


Depression is a common and serious mood disorder. It can cause feelings of sadness, hopelessness and helplessness that can interfere with daily life and normal functioning. Depression affects both men and women, but women are nearly twice as likely as men to have depression and roughly 20 percent will develop depression at some point their lives. Depression in women can be caused by normal hormonal changes, as well as other biological factors, life experiences and inherited traits.

Symptoms of depression in women

Women with depression may experience symptoms that include:

  • Restlessness, irritability, or excessive crying
  • Sleeping too much or too little, or waking too early in the morning
  • A persistent sad, anxious, or "empty" mood
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities, including sex
  • Fatigue and decreased energy
  • Feelings of helplessness, guilt, hopelessness, worthlessness or pessimism
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss, or overeating and weight gain
  • Suicide attempts, or thoughts of death or suicide
  • Problems concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
  • Persistent aches and pains, cramps, headaches, or digestive problems that don't respond to treatment

Treatment for women and depression at BWH

Women's Mental Health Services at Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) and Brigham and Women's Faulkner Hospital are designed to address the unique needs of women and depression. This national center of expertise in women's health incorporates clinical, teaching and research programs. Our mental health team is group of clinicians with expertise and specialized training in treating women and depression, providing treatment for:

  • Depression during pregnancy and postpartum
  • Depression due to infertility or pregnancy loss
  • Premenstrual mood symptoms
  • Psychiatric symptoms/emotional changes during the transition to menopause
  • Hot flashes associated with mood symptoms.
  • Depression as a reaction to breast cancer, uterine cancer, hysterectomy or other gynecologic problems

During pregnancy, postpartum, and menopause, some women are at greater risk of developing problems with depression and anxiety. The clinicians in BWH Mental Health Services work with women to develop strategies to prevent depression during these periods. This includes assessing a woman's risk for developing depression before or during pregnancy or during these reproductive transitions, and developing a plan to reduce these risks. BWH clinicians will also help make a plan for healthy pregnancies for women with pre-existing psychiatric disorders or women who are taking medications for mood or anxiety problems.

In addition to women's health services such as treatment for women and depression, Brigham and Women's Hospital offers treatment across a number of medical specialties, including arrhythmia treatment, orthopedic surgery, care for high risk pregnancy, laparoscopic hysterectomy, neurosurgery and spine surgery. Patients in need of a specific treatment, such as osteoarthritis treatment or spinal stenosis treatment, can use our physician directory to find specialists in their area.

Learn more about Women and Depression at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

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