Sudden behavior changes in the women in your life could be signs of a shift in their mental health. These signs may reveal that a friend, family member, or coworker needs help for depression or even both depression and addiction. Your role as a support system can only become more valuable by learning how to recognize symptoms of depression and understand the connection of depression to substance use disorders.
Signs of depression in women can appear as constant sadness, a feeling of hopelessness, and uncontrollable emotions. A woman who’s depressed may lose interest in her favorite activities and experience physical symptoms untouched by any over-the-counter treatment products. Suffering from physical abuse from a partner or loved one and issues related to reproductive hormones may contribute to the development of depression in a woman.
Dual diagnosis treatment is available for a woman living with depression and a substance use disorder. In the case of depression caused by past trauma, a treatment program offering trauma-informed care is recommended.
10 Symptoms of Depression in Women
Here are ten common signs of depression in women:
- She’s constantly sad.
Persistent sadness is unlike sadness due to a specific circumstance. A woman who seems sad regularly may not be able to explain what’s causing the emotion in any given moment. She may be able to describe, if asked, what she’s feeling but have no explanation for its cause.
- She’s frequently tired or always seems fatigued.
Depression isn’t limited to a mental state of mind. Women who are depressed may be exhausted, even if they sleep more than usual. Their bodies are fatigued as a result, especially if they attempt to push through the depression and maintain an active lifestyle.
- She seems nervous or restless.
General nervousness or restlessness suggests a woman is not relaxed. She may be anxious and overly sensitive to her circumstances or the people around her.
- Her weight is fluctuating.
Weight changes are common in women. Weight can increase if activity levels drop or eating behaviors increase. Stress can be a factor in both weight gain and loss. If her depression affects her ability to function daily, her stress levels may increase significantly.
- Her emotions appear uncontrollable.
Emotions can be a natural reaction to something negative in life. Stronger emotions accompanying depression appear out of nowhere or may not be at an expected level for the situation.
- She’s lost interest in her favorite activities.
A woman who’s depressed may no longer find joy in the places and activities that once occupied some of her time.
- She seems hopeless. Depression robs a person of feelings of hopefulness and optimism. The ability to see silver linings in situations may disappear.
- Her physical symptoms don’t go away with treatment. A woman who purchases over-the-counter products to treat headaches, backaches, cramps, or other physical discomforts may find they don’t eliminate the problem. Instead, the pain persists and may send her in the direction of substances to find relief.
- She has trouble making decisions. Depression confuses the mind and can interfere with a woman’s ability to solve problems or make everyday decisions.
- She seems to be preoccupied with death or dying. A woman who frequently talks about death, even if it’s not her death, may be showing signs of a preoccupation with mortality. If visible clues of attempts at self-harm accompany this preoccupation, immediate medical attention is recommended.
5 Causes of Depression in Women
Symptoms of depression in women may have several causes, including:
- Suffering physical abuse from a partner or loved one can lead to depression in women.
A woman who experiences pain and suffering at the hands of a family member can develop depression shortly after the incident or years later. If the experience is traumatic, she may begin to feel depression and anxiety connected to the trauma.
- Environmental stresses can be a factor in a woman’s depression.
Positive and negative changes in a woman’s life can be environmental stresses leading to depression. They can include moving away from home, starting classes at a college, starting a career, dating, marrying, having children. Losing a loved one can be a significant life change that leads to depression.
- Genetics plays a role in women developing depression.
Depression, like other mental health disorders and substance use disorders, can be inherited. While it’s not the only factor in developing depression, it’s significant. A family history of depression can make a woman predisposed to a mental health care issue of her own at any time in her life.
- Issues related to reproductive hormones can influence the onset of a woman’s depression.
Reproductive hormones touch a significant portion of a woman’s life. They appear as early as menstruation and affect fertility during the childbearing years. The reduced amount of these hormones and the accompanying changes during years of menopause can be a cause of depression in women. The inability to conceive can also impact a woman’s mental health and well-being, whether she’s interested in raising a child on her own or as part of a partnership and family.
- A long-term illness can be a factor in women showing signs of depression.
Illness can introduce the onset of depression in at least a couple of ways. A woman who feels her life has become defined by the illness may experience the symptoms of depression. If she cannot function on her own, she may experience depression related to the loss of independence. Medications used to treat many illnesses and chronic conditions can also produce a side effect of depression.
Depression and Addiction: How it’s Connected
Depression and addiction can appear in a woman’s life at different times, or their appearance can coincide. Although they are diagnosed separately, there is a strong connection between them. Part of it comes from the overlapping symptoms of the disorders. One disorder may appear to mimic the other to the untrained eye.
Women whose mental health gets neglected can develop unhealthy substance use early in life, even as pre-teens or teenagers. The use of drugs or alcohol can be a response to feelings of inadequacy, low self-esteem, and a lack of belonging within the family or a social group. A young woman may experiment with drug use if she thinks it will give her that sense of belonging she desires.
As mental health continues to be overlooked, a woman may increase her drug use as symptoms of depression intensify. She may find a brief bit of relief through drug use, only to see the return of symptoms when the chemical impact of the substances wears off. Substance use may be her only way of coping with overwhelming feelings of sadness and hopelessness.
Keeping the high going can become an objective and encourage her to use drugs more often and in higher amounts. When that quantity increases, her risk of becoming addicted rises. Some substances take longer for the physical addiction to begin. Others, such as opioids, can lead to addiction much more quickly. If depressive episodes lead to self-harm or abuse by others, a prescription of opioids as a pain treatment could put a woman at risk for addiction in less than a week of its use.
The reverse effect with substance use coming first is also a possibility. A woman who uses regularly and experiences negative consequences from her drug use could develop depression. It may come from a breakup with a romantic partner, separation or divorce, loss of a job, strain on a friendship or other close relationship, and loss of connection with members of the community.
Treatment for Depression and Addiction for Women
Women with a history of addiction may attempt multiple times to get clean. The presence of depression can complicate their ability to sustain sobriety, even if they return to treatment programs repeatedly. The pivotal choice for these women is to seek dual diagnosis treatment.
Dual diagnosis treatment simultaneously addresses substance use disorders and signs of depression in women. A woman who receives this kind of treatment is given help in responding to both conditions with problem-solving skills, support, understanding of a drug’s impact, and increased awareness of her responses to both disorders. Experiencing dual diagnosis treatment increases the chances of sustaining sobriety beyond treatment when combined with continuing care choices.
Effectively treating a substance use disorder and co-occurring mental health disorder comes from personalized care provided to a woman in treatment. She experiences individual therapy to help her identify what role her depression has played in her drinking or drug use. She learns to anticipate potential triggers for emotional responses to situations and the unwanted return to substance use. If her depression has roots in traumatic experiences, trauma-informed care can help her recognize how her past behaviors are connected to her endured painful experiences.
Hannah’s House is a well-known care provider offering a range of treatment programs targeting the recovery from substance use, mental health issues, and beyond. Our primary mission is to provide a clear path to a life of healing and restoration. We offer renowned clinical care for addiction and have the compassion and professional expertise to guide you toward lasting sobriety.
For information on our programs, call us today: 561.841.1272.