Life is full of ups and downs, but when you feel sad, empty, or hopeless most of the time for at least 2 weeks or those feelings keep you from your regular activities, you may have depression. Depression is a serious mental health condition. Women are twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with depression.1 Depression is not a normal part of being a woman. Most women, even those with the most severe depression, can get better with treatment.
Depression is a mental health illness when someone feels sad (including crying often), empty, or hopeless most of the time (or loses interest in or takes no pleasure in daily activities) for at least 2 weeks. Depression affects a person’s ability to work, go to school, or have relationships with friends and family. Depression is one of the most common mental health conditions in the United States.2 It is an illness that involves the body, mood, and thoughts. It can affect the way you eat and sleep, the way you feel about yourself, and the way you think about things.
It is different from feeling “blue” or “down” or just sad for a few hours or a couple of days. Depression is also different from grief over losing a loved one or experiencing sadness after a trauma or difficult event. It is not a condition that can be willed or wished away. People who have depression cannot just “pull themselves” out of it.
Yes. Different kinds of depression include:
Other types of depression have slightly different symptoms and may start after a certain event. These types of depression include:
Women are twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with depression.1 It is more than twice as common for African-American, Hispanic, and white women to have depression compared to Asian-American women. Depression is also more common in women whose families live below the federal poverty line.3
There is no single cause of depression. Also, different types of depression may have different causes. There are many reasons why a woman may have depression:
Not all people with depression have the same symptoms. Some people might have only a few symptoms, while others may have many. How often symptoms happen, how long they last, and how severe they are may be different for each person.
If you have any of the following symptoms for at least 2 weeks, talk to a doctor or nurse or mental health professional:
Depression is linked to many health problems in women, including:6
Talk to your doctor or nurse if you have symptoms of depression. Certain medicines and some health problems (such as viruses or a thyroid disorder) can cause the same symptoms as depression. Sometimes depression can be part of another mental health condition.
Diagnosis of depression includes a mental health professional asking questions about your life, emotions, struggles, and symptoms. The doctor, nurse, or mental health professional may order lab tests on a sample of your blood or urine and do a regular checkup to rule out other problems that could be causing your symptoms.
Your doctor or mental health professional may treat depression with therapy, medicine, or a combination of the two. Your doctor or nurse may refer you to a mental health specialist so that you can begin therapy.
Some people with milder forms of depression get better after treatment with therapy. People with moderate to severe depression might need a type of medicine called an antidepressant in addition to therapy. Antidepressants change the levels of certain chemicals in your brain. It may take a few weeks or months before you begin to feel a change in your mood. There are different types of antidepressant medicines, and some work better than others for certain people. Some people get better only with both treatments — therapy and antidepressants.
Having depression can make some people more likely to turn to drugs or alcohol to cope. But drugs or alcohol can make your mental health condition worse and can affect how medicines that are used to treat depression work. Talk to your therapist or doctor or nurse about any alcohol or drug use.
Talk to someone like a doctor, nurse, psychiatrist, mental health professional, or social worker about your symptoms. You can also find no-cost or low-cost help in your state by using the mental health services locator on the top left side (desktop view) or bottom (mobile view) of this page.
If you are thinking about hurting or even killing yourself, get help now. Call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
You might feel like your pain is too overwhelming to bear, but those feelings don’t last forever. People do make it through suicidal thoughts. Many thoughts of suicide are impulses that go away after a short period of time.10
Taking St. John’s wort for depression has not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Studies show mixed results about the plant’s ability to treat depression.11
It may be dangerous to take St. John’s wort if you also take other medicines. St. John’s wort can make many medicines not work at all or may cause dangerous or life-threatening side effects. The medicines used to treat heart disease, HIV, depression, seizures, certain cancers, and organ transplant rejection may not work or may have dangerous side effects if taken with St. John’s wort. St. John’s wort may also make birth control pills not work, which increases the chance you will get pregnant when you don’t want to.12 It is crucial that you tell your doctor or nurse if you take St. John’s wort.
Depression is a serious mental illness that can be successfully treated with therapy and FDA-approved medicines. FDA-approved medicines and natural treatments can have side effects. It’s best to talk to a doctor or nurse about treatment for depression.
For some people, yes. Researchers think that exercise may work better than no treatment at all to treat depression.13 They also think that exercise can help make depression symptoms happen less often or be less severe.14 Researchers do not know whether exercise works as well as therapy or medicine to treat depression.13 People with depression often find it very difficult to exercise, even though they know it will help make them feel better. Walking is a good way to begin exercising if you haven’t exercised recently.
Researchers are studying natural and complementary treatments (add-on treatments to medicine or therapy) for depression. Currently, none of the natural or complementary treatments are proven to work as well as medicine and therapy for depression. However, natural or complementary treatments that have little or no risk, like exercise, meditation, or relaxation training, may help improve your depression symptoms and usually will not make them worse.
Maybe. Some medicines, such as some types of antidepressants, may make it more difficult for you to get pregnant, but more research is needed.15 Talk to your doctor about other treatments for depression that don’t involve medicine if you are trying to get pregnant. For example, a type of talk therapy called cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) helps women with depression.16 This type of therapy has little to no risk for women trying to get pregnant. During CBT, you work with a mental health professional to explore why you are depressed and train yourself to replace negative thoughts with positive ones. Certain mental health care professionals specialize in depression related to infertility.
Women who are already taking an antidepressant and who are trying to get pregnant should talk to their doctor or nurse about the risks and benefits of stopping the medicine. Learn more about taking medicines during pregnancy in our Pregnancy section.
For more information about depression, call the OWH Helpline at 1-800-994-9662 or check out these resources from the following organizations:
This content is provided by the Office on Women’s Health.