Hormonal changes during a woman’s lifetime have been shown to have a direct effect on depression. These periods, for the most part, occur at critical stages of life such as puberty, during menstrual periods, during and after pregnancy, and before and during menopause. All of these produce hormonal changes in the body. In studies involving the brain and depression, it has been noted through MRI scans, that the brain, in those who suffer from depression, actually looks differently from those who are not. This, however, doesn’t show which of the many causes is producing the condition, but it does indicate that brain chemistry has a great deal to do with it.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, depression in women may be the result of several factors that include, biological, psychological, environmental, social, genetic, and hormonal. Studies have shown that one of the reasons women suffer from depression more than men, is however, mainly due to hormonal changes that occur at specific periods of their life.
PMDD, or premenstrual dysphoric disorder, is one of the most common examples of an imbalance in the brain’s chemistry resulting from hormonal changes. Women who have extreme changes at this time experience periods of irritability, depression, and anxiety prior to their menstrual cycles. This is increased in those women that may already be experiencing depression from other factors, or that have a history of depression.
Postpartum depression, due to hormonal changes, coupled with the stress of a new baby, may be as mild as a temporary case of sadness that lasts for no more than a few days or weeks, or it may be serious enough to require medical help. Once again, those women who were previously prone to periods of depression are at the most risk.
Between the periods of premenopause and menopause hormonal changes increase, and may cause depression and mood changes in some women, even if they have never experienced depression before. During the post-menopausal period, however, the depression normally subsides. During all these periods of change, women who are more exposed to other stressful situations are normally more affected.
Not all women experience the same degree of depression and mood changes during hormonal changes. However, women in general, are more prone to severe reactions to stress than men. This, in many cases, leads to prolonged periods of depression that may be complicated and elevated when hormonal changes occur during certain periods of their lives.