all in your head: living with a mood disorder
w o m e n   a n d   d e p r e s s i o n "In any given year, about 5.4 percent of the U.S. population or about 9.9 million people suffer from . . . dysthymia, according to studies by the National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH). Another 5 percent or 9.2 million are sick with the most severe form of illness called major depression. More than two-thirds of these 19 million are women." from Why change the world when you can have a Prozac Moment?

Many more women than men are affected by depression. In my opinion this fact (and the inherent sexism of American society) contribute to society's opinion of depression as being something that one can 'snap out of' rather than what it, in reality, is. Women, of course, are more emotional, according to society's construction of gendered behavior. If we just (insert solution here) we'd be much better. I've had well meaning people point me towards god, toward exercise, toward weight loss, and toward a boyfriend. This includes people who should have known better, such as mental health workers. What they were saying to me without realizing it was "if you were a good enough woman, you wouldn't be depressed." It is almost impossible not to internalize these attitudes. The negative attitude that I have encountered both in others and in myself has interfered with my healing process.

Compare the attitude of society toward bipolar (manic-depressive) disorder with the attitude toward depression. Bipolar disorder is recognised as a 'real' illness that can be treated with medication. It also affects men and women in equal numbers.

"A very big component of depression in women is hormonal influences. Hormones--specifically, shifts in hormones--are associated with affective, or mood, changes. " from Mood Disorders in Women

The forms of depression that are specific to women are minimized as mere hormonal issues. We call it premenstrual syndrome and post-partum depression, but what is experenced is real and as devastating as depression occurring in men. Women's hormones fluctuate during the month. This is not abnormal, except in a sexist medical view that constructs women as deviant from 'normal' maleness.

Historically, most medical research has been done using male subjects. Very often, diseases and disorders that primarily affect women are ignored or given second-rate treatment, much like breast cancer research was until the recent wave of activism.

Societal and other pressures also contribute to the prevalance of depression in women. In general women, especially women of color, have a much lower socioeconomic status. The pressure and stress from this, as well as from day to day living in a society where you are constantly in threatened with violence and told that you are not good enough can very easily provoke a depressive episode.

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