According to Mental Health America, depression in women is twice as common as depression in men. Because of this, it’s a good idea to become familiar with the signs of depression in women and be aware of your own symptoms and mood changes. With this kind of awareness, you’re in a much better situation to get the help you need to recover when you’re experiencing depression.
Frequent Symptoms of Depression in Women
The exact combination of symptoms you experience with depression can vary from person to person – and that can make it difficult to recognize sometimes. For example, if you know someone who’s experienced depression and what you’re experiencing is a little different, you might dismiss your own symptoms.
If you experience several of these symptoms, it’s likely that you’re depressed:
- Feeling hopeless
- Feeling excessively sad
- Feelings of emptiness
- Being irritable
- Feeling anxious
- Feeling excessively or needlessly guilty
- Losing interest in the things you usually enjoy
- Struggling to concentrate
- Being forgetful
- Having panic attacks
- Feeling like you’re out of control
- Experiencing mood swings
When you’re experiencing depression, you might find it hard to explain how you’re feeling to others – but it’s important that you do so in order to get the help that you need.
It’s common to feel isolated when you’re depressed, and the feeling that you’re fighting alone can be overwhelming. It’s really important that you have (or develop) a social support system to help you cope with what you’re experiencing.
6 Steps to Combatting Signs of Depression in Women
To help you combat symptoms of depression, you need a toolbox of healthy coping mechanisms. There are six different components to the depression-fighting toolbox.
Build a support system around you. This might be a support group where you meet with others who are experiencing depression, a spiritual group, or simply a group of friends who want to love and support each other.
One of the most important tools you can have in your toolbox is the ability to trust others and share with them about how you’re feeling. When you’re depressed, keeping things bottled up inside only makes you feel worse.
If you can learn to trust the people around you and externalize your feelings rather than internalizing them before you experience depression, you’re in a much better position to share your feelings when you are feeling depressed.
When you’re experiencing depression, you may feel drained of energy or have no desire to do anything. It’s tempting to just stay in bed when you feel that way but doing that just worsens your feelings of isolation and loneliness. Reaching out to your support system can lift you out of a cycle of worsening symptoms.
Make sure that you get out of the house when you’re feeling depressed. Just a short walk can help to stop repetitive cycles of negative thinking. One of the reasons why people experience depression is due to reduced levels of a chemical called serotonin. Because sunlight provides serotonin, a walk outside can help to raise your serotonin levels. Building exercise into your daily activities can make it easier to exercise when you’re feeling depressed.
Dealing with depression is more than just about mental health. You need to look after your physical health, too. That’s because the mind and body have a connection, and how you’re feeling emotionally can produce physical symptoms too. One way to help take care of your physical health is to ensure that you get the right amount of sleep.
Depression often affects our ability to sleep, perhaps because of recurring negative thoughts or worries. If you already have poor sleep patterns, then you’re likely to experience more problems with insomnia when you’re feeling depressed. Therefore, it’s important that you learn ways to better manage sleep problems.
It can be helpful to be able to know and manage the things that tend to affect your sleep – for example drinking caffeine after mid-afternoon can affect some people. Stress impacts on sleep, too, so look for ways to reduce your stress levels, perhaps through relaxation and meditation techniques. Getting daily exercise can also help to improve your sleep habits.
Watch what you eat. There are links between some types of food and drink and the negative moods associated with depression. Consuming caffeine, unhealthy fats, alcohol, and simple carbohydrates can cause spikes and crashes in blood sugar levels that make symptoms of depression worse.
A lot of women comfort eat when experiencing a low mood – but this isn’t an effective coping mechanism. In fact, the go-to comfort foods are often foods that make your mood worse. Comfort eating can also make you feel guilty and ashamed later.
It’s important that you’re able to identify any unhealthy coping mechanisms and try to replace them with more healthy mechanisms. It can be easy to overlook some unhealthy coping mechanisms – so try to identify all the things that you use to cope that only result in temporary relief.
Never be afraid to seek out professional help when you’re experiencing symptoms of depression. You don’t have to fight the battle alone, and getting professional help is a strength rather than a weakness. Christian counseling, for example, can help you find hope once more.
When you’re battling with depression, it’s common to have a lot of irrational or ‘faulty’ patterns of thinking. A therapist can help you to learn to listen to your inner dialogue and identify negative patterns of thinking that are contributing to your feelings of depression.
15 Ways Your Thinking Can Be Distorted
Cognitive distortion is a term used to refer to the way that we can convince ourselves that our faulty thinking is actually true. When you’re experiencing depression, you may find that you have more cognitive distortions than before. Therefore, it’s a good idea to know (in advance) what cognitive distortions look like so you can recognize when you’re thinking in those ways.
There are fifteen common cognitive distortions. How many of these do you find yourself regularly using?
With filtering, you tend to focus on the negatives and completely disregard any positives of your current situation. Filtering can happen even when there are actually more positives than negatives – it’s as if your brain has a filter so you can only see the negatives. Filtering like this can cause a rapid worsening of depressive symptoms, due to the continual negative focus.
2. Black and White (or Polarized) Thinking
When you think about everything in black and white terms, this is known as polarized thinking. You don’t allow for any hues of gray and can’t be convinced about any alternatives. This type of thinking is often associated with perfectionism.
Overgeneralizing means that you come to conclusions about something without considering all the evidence. It may be that particular experiences of an event have led to you assuming that all similar events will unfold in the same (usually negative) way. In some cases, overgeneralizing can lead to not only depression but anxiety and panic attacks, too.
4. Leaping to Conclusions
It’s easy to jump to a conclusion about something or someone – whether you have any evidence or not. You might imagine how an event will unfold and be convinced that it’s going to be negative (even if you have no reason whatsoever to think that). You can also assume you know how someone is thinking or feeling about you.
For example, you might send a message to a friend, and, when they don’t reply for several hours, you jump to the conclusion that they’re angry with you or you’ve done something to upset them. Instead of asking them if something is wrong, you fall into this negative and distorted way of thinking. Your assumptions guide the way you think and feel.
When you catastrophize, you live in a constant state of believing that things are always going to go wrong. It’s like constantly asking yourself “what if”’ questions – and imagining the worst possible scenario. Even small things can become hugely out of proportion when you spend your time catastrophizing.
If you find yourself constantly thinking that you are responsible for things like your boss being in a lousy mood or your son’s failure in a math test, then you’re likely experiencing the cognitive distortion of personalization.
7. Fallacies about Control
There are two types of fallacies around the idea of control. External control is where you feel like you have no control because you’re a sort of helpless victim of fate. You might think, “It’s not my fault my work is bad — it’s because my boss made me work overtime to finish it.”
Internal control is where you take responsibility for other people’s pain and happiness. For example, you might blame yourself for a loved one’s mood, even if you have nothing to do with why they’re upset.
8. Fairness Fallacies
Did your parents ever tell you that “life isn’t always fair” when you complained that it wasn’t fair that your brother got to go and play while you had to finish homework? The fallacy of fairness is where we feel resentful because other people don’t agree with our assessment of what is, and isn’t, fair.
If you’re constantly measuring everything that happens against your idea of what is and isn’t fair, you’re going to end up feeling quite negative about ‘the unfairness of life’ a lot of the time.
9. Attributing Blame
You can experience cognitive distortion in your ideas about blame in two ways. You might blame other people (excessively) for the way things have worked out in your life or situations that you face. Alternatively, you may blame yourself all the time for things that aren’t necessarily your fault.
10. ‘Shoulds’ and ‘Musts’
We’re all guilty of trying (and failing) to live up to our own set of expectations – otherwise known as our moral compass. In the extreme of this, though, you become overly focused on what you “should” or “must” be doing (or not doing). When you’re feeling depressed, it’s common to beat yourself up with a whole list of “shoulds” that just lead you to feel more and more depressed.
We may also try to impose our own “shoulds” and “musts” on other people and get upset or angry when they break one of our “should” or “should not” rules.
11. Reasoning Based on Emotions
It’s quite easy to fall into the cognitive distortion of being constantly guided by our emotions. This means that we base our reasoning on how we feel. For example, if we feel that we are unlovable, then this must be true about us – no matter what other people say to counter these thoughts.
12. Expecting Others to Change
When you experience the cognitive distortion that other people should be expected to change just because you need (or want) them to, you’re going to experience disappointment, frustration, and anger. With this cognitive distortion, it can become even more problematic if you believe that if they cannot (or will not) change, you will be adversely affected.
13. Labeling and Global Judgment
Labeling (or mislabeling) is a more extreme type of generalizing that is both negative and unhealthy. When we label/mislabel something, we’re describing something (such as a mistake) in a general, non-contextualized way.
For example, if you fail to complete a task in the time you’ve allowed for doing it, you might label yourself as “a failure.” We also often mislabel other people in a general way, such as saying that someone “has a horrible nature.”
Mislabeling almost always uses emotionally charged words. An example of this could be describing a woman who uses a daycare facility for her children while she’s at work as ‘abandoning her children’.
14. Never Being Wrong
With this cognitive distortion, you might have the distorted belief that you are never, ever wrong. Believing that you are always right causes you to reject all attempts to correct you, and you may fight and bicker just to prove your point. This causes a lot of damage to relationships.
15. Believing You Deserve Good for Doing Good
When you have this cognitive distortion, your belief system revolves around the idea that you deserve good things when you do good things. This has sometimes been described as the “Heaven’s reward fallacy.” It causes problems because it’s a distorted view of the way that the world works – and makes you do good only to reap the rewards (and get angry when the rewards fail to materialize).
Help for Depression
If you’re experiencing depressive symptoms, Christian counseling for depression can help you to start the journey towards recovery. It’s important that you don’t try to ignore your symptoms or try to minimize the seriousness of them. Depression is a serious mental health condition that can be treated when you seek help from a professional.
In therapy, you can learn to heal from past wounds that contribute to your depression and learn coping mechanisms to handle the symptoms. You’ll also learn how to recognize different types of depression, and to ask for help before the signs and symptoms of major depression become worse.
Having tactics to fight negative thinking and unhealthy coping mechanisms can reduce the likelihood of experiencing further episodes of depression, too.
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