According to Christine S. Packard and Wendy Ulrich (Chapter 14), from adolescence on, women are about twice as likely to experience depressive disorders as men: this holds true across a variety of cultures and countries. Current theories suggest that our physiology, thoughts, experiences, and relationships may all play roles in depression.
Factors affecting depression in women
1. CHURCH AFFILIATION
– Studies show the relationship between church activity and mental health find that religious people are generally happier and better adjusted than others.
– High standards in the LDS church may be misinterpreted by some and lead to unhealthy perfectionism which can be contributed to depression.
– Changes in hormones during the monthly menstrual cycle, pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, and menopause can change the amount of neurotransmitter available in the brain.
– Hormones also fluctuate more when women are stressed, tired, hungry, or sick.
B. Low Energy – Fatigue
– Prolonged low energy can lead to depression.
– Possible thyroid issues, could be due to the interplay between the reproductive and thyroid hormones. Depression often accompanies hypothyroidism (insufficient thyroid production).
– Anemia (low iron) can be a result of heavy menstrual flow, pregnancy, poor nutrition, and other problems can result in deep weariness and a sense of being bone tired.
– Getting inadequate sleep.
– Excess weight.
– Acid reflux.
– Apnea (breathing problems during sleep).
– Dehydration. If we don’t drink adequate water our bodies become dehydrated.
– Women give low priority to maintaining their physical health and often feel compressed and burdened by the demands of family and work.
1. Skipping or putting off meals.
2. Full Schedules of children’s activities, church callings, or work responsibilities.
– Regular aerobic exercise is a key ingredient in preventing and treating depression.
1. Helps balance hormones.
2. Stabilize moods.
E. Medical Care
– Good physical health is necessary for good mental health.
– Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has been repeatedly shown to have the best track record of any form of talk therapy for treating depression. How do we talk to ourselves inside our own heads. What we tell ourselves may have a bigger influence on our mood than the circumstances themselves.
Depressed people begin to feel better as:
A. They work toward realistic goals
– Having too few goals gives us little to strive for.
– Pursuing too many goals leaves us feeling overloaded.
– Women are encouraged to pursue meaningful goals related to spirituality, service to others, and family life.
– Stay connected with our real interests and passions help prevent depression.
B. They develop patterns and routines for day-to-day living
– Routines and plans help both moms and children, even if they have to be more flexible than they would like.
C. They set realistic standards for themselves and are not overloaded with shame and guilt associated with unrealistic self-expectations
– These are high risk factors for depression.
– Women sometimes develop a harsh and punishing conscience in an effort to keep high standards and maintain self-esteem.
– Basing our self-esteem and self image on what others think of us can pressure us to set unrealistic goals.
– Excessive shame promotes hiding our true feelings or difficulties for fear of others’ judgments or disappointment, leaving us feeling isolated and unworthy – both factors in depression.
D. They can see choices and behavior in shades rather than black-and-white
– Scaled thinking. Seeing things in black and white terms instead of on a scale with many shades promotes depression.
– If we believe that our lessons are a disaster, our children are failures, we look awful, and we have no friends, it is almost a given we will feel discouraged, ashamed, and depressed.
– Depressive symptoms can often be traced to simple events to which we react with black-and-white, all-or-nothing thinking that we don’t even recognize as such.
E. They avoid excessive worry about faults and problems
– Rumination. When we get stuck rerunning the same worries over and over again.
– While deep thinking can lead to important self-discovery and change, it can also cause us to focus too much attention on problems to the exclusion of creativity, pleasure, light-hearted interaction, and fun. – We also need time to just play and work together with with friends.
– What we think and understand in our heads is often different from what we feel in our hearts, and sometimes that difference causes us emotional problems.
– Clarity of thinking is impeded by depression, and when efforts to change our thoughts don’t result in a decrease in depression, it may be time to look a little deeper. – We may not recognize that our quick irritability or anger in close relationships may be secondary to painful, primary feelings, such as sadness, fear, loneliness, or shame. – Likewise, feelings of depression or sadness may mask deeper feelings of resentment, frustration, or powerlessness. – We often distance ourselves from feelings of being unworthy, unlovable, not worth caring for, or too difficult to be in a relationship with by expressing feelings such as anger, irritability or hopelessness.
Some things that might help us identify the emotions driving these feelings or beliefs: – Journal writing: allowing ourselves a blank sheet of paper and permitting ourselves to write anything that comes to mind may open a fuller understanding of what we feel and believe, as well as inspiration to the spirit.
– Working with images or objects will sometimes allow us to move from intellectual awareness to workable solutions. Drawing, contemplating analogies and metaphors, reading or writing stories, or working with a therapist using a sand tray with miniatures can allow us to give form to our troubling images in our hearts and heads so we can begin to imagine constructive alternatives.
– Perhaps we can understand anger as a symptom that something is wrong that we feel powerless about. Then it becomes possible to address the feeling of powerlessness, acknowledge it for what it is, understand why we feel it, and make choices that will allow us to move forward…rather than ruminating in the rut of depression and helplessness.
– Find a good listening friend, inspired priesthood leader, or skilled therapist to help dissect emotion, gain perspective, and address issues effectively.
Heavenly Father has given us feeling to greatly enlarge our experiences in this life. When we seek his help to understand our feelings and express them appropriately, he can show us great things.
5. ROLES – Women who work may feel guilty for neglecting family or having inadequate homemaking skills. Women who stay home and devote their time to raising children may feel less skilled or less important than their working sisters. For many women, the demands of multiple roles have increased without a corresponding increase in resources of time, energy, and ability. When a woman feels she cannot meet the demands placed upon them, no matter how hard they try, depression is more likely.
– Women who have been harmed by men are understandably more likely to distrust men’s motives, fear their power, and resent their authority. Some women may more easily confuse the loving nature of God with the unloving nature of their abuser.
– Adults abused as children are more likely to struggle with mental health challenges as adults, having difficulties trusting authority figures, and sometimes wrestle with internal images of a punishing or threatening God, and battle feelings of powerlessness and low self-esteem.
Making peace with our role choices and our personal history is important. As we come to deepen our trust in God’s love, goodness, integrity, and plan for us, we can find a more enduring peace.
Women are relational beings. Women spend much of their time and energy in creating, sustaining, and facilitating relationships. These things are the greatest source of a woman’s deepest joy, and when relationships are disrupted or painful, they are the source of a woman’s deepest sorrow and despair. They may wrongly believe that problems in relationships are related to their own worth and forget that others also have agency to make choices.
Many lovely and righteous LDS women become confused, devastated, and depressed when they have worked and prepared their entire lives for a marriage that doesn’t materialize. Too many of these young women see their single status as evidence of some personal failure or inadequacy. It is easy to lose sight of God’s eternal plan for their happiness, which extends beyond mortality.
Elder Dallin H. Oaks has counseled: “Healing blessings come in many ways, each suited to our individual needs, as known to Him who loves us best. Sometimes a ‘healing’ cures our illness or lifts our burden. But sometimes we are ‘healed’ by being given strength or understanding or patience to bear the burdens placed upon us.”
Because the pain of depression is often relational in nature, it is important to remember that the healing is also relational. Healing is the essence of our relationship with Jesus Christ. No pain or sorrow is beyond the reach of his redeeming power.
Depression is not cause for shame; nor is it cause for despair. It may be the experience that can eventually lift us to great light and knowledge of God.
(Please see the entire chapter 14 for the full text)
The following information was found in the book, “Matters of the Mind” Latter Day Saint Helps for Mental Health