“Women are never stronger than when they arm themselves with their weaknesses” – Hard and Helpful Facts About Women and Depression

“Are you hormonal?” I don’t know about you, but hearing this phrase drives me up a wall. We the smart, sexy, and self-powered women of New York have worked hard to detangle ourselves from the stereotypes attached to such a phrase – the ones that say our gender is too impulsive, too moody, and too unpredictable.

Unfortunately our eagerness to prove that “moodiness” is something we are more than capable of handling has many women in denial of something more serious. Last November, a study by the Society for Women’s Health Research in D.C. showed that it isn’t uncommon for hormonal shifts in our bodies to trigger not only “moodiness” but mood disorders, which can range from a mild bout of depression to severe mood imbalances that no woman should try to cope with alone.

Part of the problem is that many women think true depression only effects a microscopic fraction of us, when the facts tell us that, for example, 10-15% of women suffer from postpartum depression and that women are twice as likely to suffer from the disease as men. The same goes for environmental pressures. Women are more likely to be juggling work and child rearing, making less money, and exposed to physical/sexual abuse, all primary environmental factors for depression.

According to the DSM-IV (aka, the psychiatrist’s Bible), you can be diagnosed with depression if you display five or more of the following list of symptoms, “for most of the day, nearly every day for at least 2 weeks”:

* Constant sadness
* Irritability
* Feelings of isolation
* Muscle aches
* Low energy/fatigue
* Trouble sleeping
* Difficulty concentrating
* Lack of motivation
* Loss of interest in favorite activities

There are more than half a dozen diagnosable types of depression, and as with most issues involving your well being, awareness of the facts is key. For example, someone with Atypical Depression (which, you guessed it, expresses “atypical” symptoms) might sleep or eat too much, as opposed to the more typical weight and sleep loss associated with depression.

So, if you are suffering from depression, what’s the next step to take? Here are a few starting points for support, medical help, and of course, how health and fitness can play an important role in your recovery.

For Support

The Mood Disorder Support Group of NYC – A fabulous non-profit running hundreds of support group sessions in the city every year out of two Manhattan locations. Anyone can show up to meetings (though there is a recommended $5 donation at each meeting) and you can sign up to be a member for $45, which pays for all meetings, as well as most of the lectures MDSG hosts on coping with mood disorders.

For Medication

No one knows you better than your own general practitioner or gynecologist. In addition to the perks of talking with someone who knows your medical history, they are also going to be in the know about the best and newest treatment options. Also check out Meds4Now.com and WebMD.com. Both are great for succinct info and comparison of medication options because they break down each medication’s info into the same format, asking important questions about side effects and who most benefits from said meds.

For Health and Fitness

Exercise = Brain Chemistry Bliss

A Duke University Medical Center study of 156 clinically depressed patients reported exercise to be more effective at easing depression over the long term than the anti-depressant medication Zoloft. While we’re not encouraging you to skip the idea of medication altogether –
why not encourage some brain chemistry bliss?


Did you know that one of the best things about yoga for depression sufferers is that it encourages deeper breathing? Breathing shallowly actually increases feelings of sluggishness and anxiety, both of which are often linked to depression.

Reflexology and Acupuncture/pressure
Each of these methods, whether they use massage or needles, stimulates better blood flow in the body to flush out the natural build-up of toxins that aggravate depression. They have also been shown to stimulate the lymphatic systems, increasing the flow of endorphins (aka “feel good” hormones).

Take Your Vitamins (and Minerals)
In most severe cases of depression, the person also suffers from B-vitamin and magnesium deficiency, and many also suffer folic acid and essential fatty acid (EFA) deficiency. EFAs have an important impact on neurological development and emotional well-being. The solution: take a B-rich multi-vitamin (like Beyond Health’s Cellular Detox Formula), fish oil, and eat more protein.

Avoid Refined Sugars
The body cannot properly metabolize them, and uses up its supply of important nutrients trying. Also avoid caffeine, MSG, and nitrates, which play similar tricks on your body chemistry.

Try a Few Herbs

St. John’s Wort has been clinically proven to help relieve depression. Gingko Biloba, Kava Kava, Rhodiola Rosea, and Valeria are also worth looking into, though you should talk to a doctor before starting a regimen with any of these.

Here’s to a healthier and happier you!

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