Brain study may analyze why depression is more common in women
depression the “leading cause of disability worldwide,” is far more common in women than it is in men. Worldwide, over 300 million people live with depression.
On a neurological level, anhedonia presents itself as reduced activity in the brain’s award processing area, called the ventral striatum. Anhedonia is one of the hallmarks of major brutal disorder. Anhedonia describes the inability to derive joy or comfort from activities that used to feel enjoyable. New research sheds light on how the sex differences in depression glaring themselves in the brain space. Specifically, scientists show how infection affects the brain’s response to rewards differently in men and women.
Many new mothers find themselves sad, angry and irritable, and involvement crying spells soon after giving birth control. But more-serious or long-lasting depressed feelings may announce postpartum depression, particularly if signs and symptoms include:
- Crying more often than usual
- Low self-esteem or feeling like you’re a bad mom
- anxiety or feeling numb
- Problems with daily functioning
- Inability to care for your baby
- Thoughts of harming your baby care
- Thoughts of suicide
Postpartum depression is a serious medical condition compelling prompt treatment. It occurs in about 10 to 15 percent of women. It’s thought to be associated with:
- Major hormonal fluctuations that influence mood
- The responsibility of caring for a newborn
- Predisposition to mood and anxiety disorders
- pregnancy and birth complications
- Breast-feeding problems
- Poor social support
Theories about the gender gap
Genetic vulnerability, hormones, and environmental stress all contribute to the advancement of depression in both women and men. Researchers have had only limited success in analyze biological factors that might make women more vulnerable to depression.
Studies in identical twins — who share the same genes — suggest that ancestry may account for about 40% of the risk for major depression. Certain generic alteration associated with the development of severe depression occur only in women.
association surveys find that women are more likely than men to say they are under stress. Other studies suggest that women are more likely than men to become despondent in response to a stressful event. Women are also more likely to experience certain kinds of severe stress, such as child sexual life abuse, adult sexual assaults, and domestic violence.
Traumatic experiences, especially early in life, can have a lasting effect on the brain. Everyday experiences can also take their toll. Women are more likely than men to be caregivers — taking care of young children, elderly parents, or both. This chronic, low-grade stress may lead to depression. Another kind of stress is poverty. Women are on average poorer than men — especially single mothers with young children, who have a particularly high rate of depression.
Furthermore, the hormonal changes that accompany menstruation each month can bring on mood changes similar to those that occur in depression. And some women are vulnerable to developing depression after giving birth (see “Prenatal and postpartum depression”) or during the long transition to menopause — two other stages in a woman’s life where hormone levels fluctuate wildly. Researchers have long suspected that the fluctuations in female hormones such as estrogen may underlie women’s greater vulnerability to depression.
But while multiple studies have examined this question, they have not been able to prove that these hormonal fluctuations significantly affect mood in large groups of women. The consensus now is that hormonal fluctuations may render individual women more vulnerable to depression at certain times of life — perhaps by interacting with other factors, such as stress.
Regions that affect mood
Researchers are exploring possible links between sluggish construction of new neurons in the hippocampus and low moods. An interesting fact about antidepressants supports this theory. These aid immediately boost the concentration of chemical messengers in the brain (neurotransmitters). Experts have long speculate why, if depression were primarily the result of low levels of neurotransmitters, people don’t feel better as soon as levels of neurotransmitters increase.
The answer may be that mood only improves as nerves grow and form new contact, a process that takes weeks. In fact, animal studies have shown that antidepressants do spur the growth and enhanced angled of nerve cells in the hippocampus. If that’s the case, aid could be developed that specifically promote neurogenesis, with the hope that patients would see quicker results than with current treatments.