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About one in ten adults in the United States suffer from depression. Women experience depression at twice the rate of men. Clinical depression is different from the regular ups and downs of life. After a disappointing experience, death of a loved one, or other loss it is very common to feel some of the typical symptoms of depression such as:

  • Hopelessness
  • Extreme sadness
  • Lack of interest in life

But when these symptoms are very intense and last for long stretches of time and/or occur without any life changing event, they are likely the symptoms of clinical depression.

Types of Clinical Depression

There are three main types of clinical depression each of which has a slightly different set of symptoms:

Major Depression – In major depression, sometimes referred to as unipolar or clinical depression, people have some or all of the symptoms listed below for at least 2 weeks but frequently for several months or longer. Episodes of the illness can occur once, twice, or several times in a lifetime.

Dysthymia – In dysthymia, the same symptoms are present though milder and last at least 2 years. People with dysthymia are frequently lacking in zest and enthusiasm for life, living a joyless and fatigued existence that seems almost a natural outgrowth of their personalities. They also can experience major depressive episodes.

Bipolar Disorder or Manic-Depression– This condition involves disruptive cycles of depressive symptoms that alternate with mania (extremely elevated mood). During manic episodes, people may become overly active, talkative, euphoric, irritable, spend money irresponsibly, and get involved in sexual misadventures. In some people, a milder form of mania, called hypomania, alternates with depressive episodes. Unlike other mood disorders, women and men are equally vulnerable to bipolar disorder; however, women with bipolar disorder tend to have more episodes of depression and fewer episodes of mania or hypomania.


Symptoms of Major Depression and Dysthymia are:

  • Depression
  • Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities, including sex
  • Restlessness, irritability, or excessive crying
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness, hopelessness, pessimism
  • Sleeping too much or too little, early-morning awakening
  • Appetite and/or weight loss or overeating and weight gain
  • Decreased energy, fatigue, feeling “slowed down”
  • Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
  • Persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, such as headaches, digestive disorders, and chronic pain

Symptoms of Mania include:

  • Abnormally elevated mood
  • Irritability
  • Decreased need for sleep
  • Grandiose notions
  • Increased talking
  • Racing thoughts
  • Increased activity, including sexual activity
  • Markedly increased energy
  • Poor judgment that leads to risk-taking behavior
  • Inappropriate social behavior


There are several general causes of depression including:

  • Genetics: Depression tends to run in families
  • Brain Chemistry: Each person has a unique brain chemistry or makeup and some people’s brain chemistry is more conducive to depression than others
  • Personal Challenges: Clinical depression can be triggered or intensified by a significant loss, a difficult relationship, financial problems, or a major change in life pattern

Causes of Depression in Women

Many causes of depression that are specific to women are associated with hormonal changes, which may partially explain why depression is so much more prevalent in women than in men. Common hormonal changes in women include:

What You Can Do

Talk to you doctor – If you suspect you are suffering from clinical depression it is important to discuss you symptoms and feelings with your healthcare provider. He or she can refer you to a specialist who can help you diagnose, treat, and manage your depression.

Get Treatment – In addition to counseling, many antidepressant medications exist that can supplement your treatment.  These drugs inhibit or promote the production and release of certain chemicals in the brain. Medications are often used to correct a brain chemistry imbalance that may be having an adverse effect on your mood.

For more information:

Go to the Women’s Health health topic.