Our treatment centers for women often find that a woman suffers from depression (or anxiety, PTSD) in addition to her chemical dependency. Women are twice as likely as men to develop depression. A new study shows that this discrepancy may be caused by stress hormones.
Neuroscientists at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia discovered that certain stress hormones have a stronger effect on women than men. That means even low levels of stress may put women at a higher risk for depression.
The study, published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, is the first evidence that women are diagnosed with depression at higher rates than men due to biology. The findings were based on preliminary research of a hormone called corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) using female and male rats. CRF regulates the stress response in mammals.
The study’s researchers recognize the need to do similar testing on humans. CRF has already been established as a factor in various stress-related psychiatric disorders.
Though depression may be biologically based, there are things women can do to reduce their stress levels and the chances of them being diagnosed with depression:
• Be active. Women who engage in regular physical activities get endorphin boosts that lift their moods and decrease stress. It also provides a way to feel healthy and energetic. Get outside to go for a walk, do some gardening, play tennis or run errands. Our treatment center uses a variety of physical rehab activities to help women get moving and feel better.
• Talk it out. Having supportive friends and family around is important to helping keep stress levels low and decreasing the risk of depression. Find time during your week to talk to the people you trust about things that may be causing you stress or anxiety. Our facilities have lots of therapeutic processes to make sure women can process the feelings that come up during the treatment process.
• Take on only what you can possibly handle. Many women multi-task – and take on too much. Between family, work, social commitments, friends and volunteering, the average woman leaves little time for herself. Learn to say no so that you are not overextending yourself on a regular basis and only doing those things you have time to do.
• Take time for yourself. Find some time during the day to engage in an activity that you enjoy and that relaxes you. This will help keep you involved in things you look forward to doing so that you don’t get lost in doing things for other people or things you don’t necessarily enjoy.
• Get enough sleep. You may not need an entire eight hours of sleep a night, but make sure that you get an uninterrupted night’s sleep and feel well-rested in the morning. Rates of stress and depression are often higher in people who don’t get enough sleep.
• Simplify life. You don’t always have to be online, checking email, answering your BlackBerry, watching the news and running errands. Make your life as simple as you can by turning off your electronics, finding time to relax and prioritizing what is important to you. The added stressors of modern living often cause a lot of anxiety.
If you have developed depression, despite your efforts to reduce your levels of stress, know that it is treatable. The right kind of depression treatment can help you turn your mood around and learn to better handle life’s stressors.
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