How does depression affect you? Some symptoms of depression include:

  • Isolation and loneliness
  • Hopelessness
  • Helplessness
  • Suicidal thoughts and feelings
  • Low energy
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Self dislike/hatred
  • Self blame and criticism
  • Self defeating behavior
  • Negative self talk
  • Remorse
  • Resentment
  • Crying spells or weepiness
  • All or nothing thinking

What is depression?

Depression is a mood based illness. It can also affect your concentration, sleep, activity, appetite, and social behavior. When you are depressed, you may believe you are worthless. Studies show that depressed people view themselves as deficient in the very qualities they most highly value such as intelligence, achievement, popularity, attractiveness, health and strength. A depressed self image can be described with the 4 D’s: You feel Defeated, Defective, Deserted and Deprived. Depression can happen after a loss, from a breakup in a relationship or loss of a job or a loved one. It is often related to grief. If you are in a situation, a relationship, job, family, or living situation that is problematic, this can lead to depression. Depression can also be genetic, running in families, like diabetes or other illnesses. This is also true for bipolar depression, where moods cycle from very high to very low.

Women can be especially susceptible to depression. Women are twice as likely as men to suffer from depression. There are many reasons for this including: hormonal cycles, pregnancy, unwanted pregnancy, the stress of raising children, gender-based salary and promotion differences in the workplace, stigma of not being married, body image expectations that can lead to eating disorders, menopause and peri-menopause, aging, childhood sexual abuse, sexual assault, partner violence, poverty, inequality, and discrimination. Females are three times more likely to become depressed after a stressful event than are males. Women also tend to be more sensitive to stressors in relationships and rely on others for validation of their own self-worth. Depression is also risky for physical health—depression can lead to addictions: alcohol, and drugs, especially nicotine. Most women abuse substances because they are depressed, as a way to self-medicate the symptoms. Women who get help for depression have higher rates of success quitting smoking. Lesbians are also at high risk for depression because of anti-gay attitudes in our culture and difficulty with self-acceptance. It is actually depressing to realize all the ways that we as women are at risk for depression! The good news is that depression responds well to therapy and people do recover. Women need to understand their special risks and learn how to find support and empowerment.

How does therapy for depression help?
Taking the first step to reach out to get help begins to counteract the helplessness and the isolation of depression. As you build a safe relationship with the therapist you can examine and learn how to recognize your negative thoughts and feelings. It is especially important to have all your feelings, including anger and despair, be accepted. The therapist sees the whole you, not just the negative thoughts and feelings that are frequently all you can see. Through this objectivity, the belief that you are worthless is challenged. In addition, the cyclical element of depression, also called the negative spiral can be understood and modified. Sometimes there are old or fresh wounds that need to be talked about. You may have experienced trauma that complicates your depression and makes it more difficult to heal. Therapy for depression includes a variety of approaches.  The purpose of therapy is to provide a space where you are free to be yourself. Very often, you might be miserable about something you feel is totally a fault of yours. The therapist will honestly tell you that many other women feel the same way, helping you begin the process of being less hard on yourself.

Some women decide to try medication therapy for depression along with psychotherapy. There are many choices and more are being developed, as technology in understanding the brain’s role in depression is deepened. Women’s Therapy Services offers a variety of approaches about how to get a medication assessment, and can talk with you about questions you may have about this option. Taking medication is an important personal decision. If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts or have a suicide plan, it is imperative that you reach out for help right away. Please call your doctor, a therapist, or go to the emergency room of a local hospital.

We offer a variety of approaches in addition to talk-therapy for depression.  Using internal creative resources like writing, journaling, art, dream-work, or EMDR can all aid in finding a way through depression. Making a commitment to therapy is investing infinding new choices and taking steps to be happier.

Women’s Therapy Services has therapists who will evaluate your needs and provide guidance and support in finding ways to alleviate your depression. Please feel free to call Phyllis Klein at (415) 273-1036 or Marlena Kushner at (415) 563-2759 for more information.

Ideas and research statistics from this paper were used in writing the above article: American Psychological Association, Summit on Women and Depression, Proceedings and Recommendations, Wye River Conference Center, April, 2002.