Depression afflicts more than 12 million American women each year and strikes women two to three times as often as men. Biological differences in women, such as hormonal changes and genetic factors, may contribute to higher rates of depression. Stress experienced by women from work- and family-related responsibilities, poverty or abuse may also play a role. After one episode of depression, a woman has a 50 percent chance that depression will recur at some point in her life.
Depression is not something you can just "get over." It is a complex medical condition. Depression is thought to be triggered by low levels of certain brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. Serotonin, one example of a neurotransmitter, has been identified as a major player in depression and other mental illnesses.
Prolonged stress, loss, substance abuse, some medications and certain illnesses can trigger depression in people who are susceptible to it. Depression also can occur spontaneously, without any apparent trigger.

Tips for Maintaining Good Mental Health

  • Exercise. Aerobic workouts such as walking or jogging can keep your mood elevated and help prevent bouts of depression. Even non-aerobic exercise, such as weight-lifting, can keep your spirits high, improve sleep and appetite, reduce irritability and anger and produce feelings of mastery and accomplishment. Be sure to check with your health care professional before you start any new exercise program.
  • Tune into your problems. Analyze recent events to identify possible sources of stress, either alone or with a close friend or loved one, to help you regain a better perspective. However, if you find yourself ruminating, or, focusing too much on a problem, try another technique listed here because ruminating can lead to depression.
  • Self-talk. If your inner voice is constantly critical, you should try to make note of unrealistically negative or critical remarks and focus more on the things you like about yourself.
  • Journaling. Write about problems and concerns in a journal to ease your anxiety and help you work through painful feelings. To get started, reflect upon each day or week and identify the most meaningful parts or moments. If you experience an intense emotion, positive or negative, write down the circumstances and the effects of the experience. Analyze any encounter that makes you feel bad.
  • Self-help or support groups. Talk with people with similar problems through hospital- or community health-sponsored support groups. Such groups, can help prevent depression recurrences.

(This information was provided by HealthyWomen. For more information on depression, click here. HealthyWomen is an NCWO affiliate.)

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