Feeling the blues
STATISTICS show that women are twice more likely to be depressed than men as a result of a wide range of reproductive challenges and social pressures. The condition often coexists with other illnesses, such as post traumatic stress disorder, social phobia, or one or more chronic non-communicable diseases.
Psychiatrist Dr Anthony Allen cautions that someone who is clinically depressed must be distinguished from somebody who is sad or in grief because of their temporary circumstances. Depression usually causes a lot of pain and can cause significant dysfunction in one’s day to day living, he noted.
“One of the main differences is that for somebody who is clinically depressed, it affects their functioning in different ways. From a physical point of view, that person is more likely to have sustained loss of sleep, loss of appetite, loss of energy, even a loss of sexual drive as well,” he said.
“When it comes to cognitive function, that person is more likely to have a difficulty with concentration, a difficulty in having the drive to do things, and of course a loss of pleasure in the things of life that would normally bring pleasure, and a greater sense of hopelessness and despair. Sometimes there are feelings of guilt and in social situations, there are feelings to withdraw and greater irritability,” he added.
Dr Allen said depression tends to last for a specific period of time, but you can also have what you call dysthymia or chronic depression, where a person can be depressed for at least two years. Hormonal changes, combined with biological factors, are oftentimes causes for temporary depression in women.
“Around the time of one’s monthly period, one can be more prone to depression and its related symptoms. Of course we know that there is what we call postpartum depression that one can be subject to, and then one can be more vulnerable to depression in the menopausal period,” said Dr Allen.
Some women usually experience a form of depression known as pre-menstrual dysphoric disorder during their menstrual cycles. This is believed to be as a result of the disruption in the function of the brain chemicals brought on by the cyclical change in oestrogen and progesterone.
Dr Allen notes that the patriarchal nature of societies such as Jamaica is also one of the contributing factors to depression in women here. He said issues such as domestic abuse, which is both verbal and physical, sometimes take a toll on women.
“In many countries, in the workplace women are paid less, and you have the glass ceiling in terms of promotion. In the society, you have more women clearly being more vulnerable in the sexual arena, you have rape, for example, and harassment in the workplace [and] in the home, women are very often the ones who bring up the child,” he said.