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The Depression Gender Gap: Why Women are More Depressed and What to Do About It

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Did you know that women are twice as likely to be diagnosed with depression compared to their male counterparts? There are good reasons for this. Continue reading to learn why depression affects women more often than men and what interventions you can utilize as a woman to reduce your depression and build a feeling of empowerment.


Women's Lives Are Complex

Women fulfill many different roles in life. We are mothers, wives, employees, bosses, friends, caregivers, parents, and so much more. The complexity and pressure of all these roles can cause us to feel as if we are constantly riding an emotional roller coaster.


In addition to our day-to-day roles and responsibilities, women are subject to personal and community events that have a large impact. Personal events that can harm women's mental health include the death of a loved one, job loss, or birth of a child. World events such as an election, legislation enactment, or even exposure to news coverage of yet another mass shooting can have a significant, compounding effect on women's mental and emotional state.


To be fair, men encounter the challenges of complex roles and exposure to challenging life events too. Yet for women, these events accumulate in addition to the toll it takes to withstand systemic gender-based oppression and other biological factors that drain our emotional reserves.


Women Face Systemic Gender-Based Oppression

Women have faced a disproportionate amount of scrutiny and gender-based oppression for thousands of years. Daily challenges include outward sexism, objectification, intimate partner violence, and the idealized portrayal of women in the media. All of these elements are issues women must cope with on a constant basis.


Gender biases in particular are a significant issue in the workforce, which too often limit women's career opportunities, growth, and income. Because of gender bias, women are much more likely than men to live in poverty, causing concerns such as uncertainty about the future and decreased access to community and healthcare resources.


Gender-based oppression and the realities of living in a patriarchal society can directly exacerbate women's feelings of negativity, low self-esteem, and lack of control over one's life. It is this additional expenditure of mental and emotional energy that increases the risk of depression, as well as body image issues, body dysmorphia, eating disorders, anxiety, and more.


Women's Biological Factors Influence Depression Level

Biologically, women endure extreme changes in hormone levels and physical changes that take a toll on our physical, mental, and emotional health over the course of our lifetime. During childhood, boys and girls face depression at fairly equal rates, but it is once puberty hits that the depression rate in girls and women increases dramatically.


Pregnancy, the postpartum period, perimenopause, and years of navigating the menstrual cycle are all associated with dramatic physical and hormonal changes that can be challenging to cope with . . . all the while, women must continue to cope with personal and environmental stressors and meet the demands of daily responsibilities.


Women Have a Different Response to Stress

Men and women share the same initial response to stress: the body releases a number of

woman crying into hands, 80010, 80011, 80019, 80022, 80024, 80030, 80031, 80102, 80137, 80216, 80221, 80229, 80233, 80234, 80241, 80249, 80260, 80601, 80602, 80603, 80640, 80642, 80643, 80012, 80013, 80014, 80015, 80016, 80017, 80018, 80045, 80101, 80102, 80103, 80110, 80111, 80112, 80113, 80120, 80121, 80122, 80123, 80124, 80129, 80130, 80131, 80134, 80136, 80137, 80138, 80220, 80222, 80224, 80231, 80237, 80246, 80247, 80290, 80014, 80123, 80201, 80202, 80203, 80204, 80205, 80206, 80207, 80208, 80209, 80210, 80211, 80212, 80216, 80218, 80219, 80220, 80221, 80222, 80223, 80224, 80226, 80227, 80230, 80231, 80232, 80233, 80235, 80236, 80237, 80238, 80239, 80246, 80247, 80249, 80250, 80260, 80264, 80265, 80266, 80273, 80274, 80279, 80290, 80291, 80293, 80294, 80295, 80299, 80014, 80022, 80123, 80127, 80128, 80202, 80203, 80204, 80205, 80206, 80207, 80208, 80209, 80210, 80211, 80212, 80216, 80218, 80219, 80220, 80221, 80222, 80223, 80224, 80226, 80227, 80229, 80230, 80231, 80232, 80233, 80234, 80235, 80236, 80237, 80238, 80239, 80241, 80246, 80247, 80249, 80250, 80264, 80265, 80266, 80273, 80274, 80290, 80291, 80293, 80294, 80295, 80299, 80301, 80302, 80303, 80304, 80305, 80306, 80307, 80308, 80309, 80310, 80314, 80403, 80455, 80466, 80471, 80481, 80501, 80503, 80504, 80510, 80516, 80533, 80540, 80544, 80027, 80021, 80020, 80234, 80026, 80023, 80516, 80436, 80438, 80439, 80444, 80452, 80476, 80422, 80427, 80002, 80003, 80004, 80005, 80007, 80021, 80033, 80034, 80123, 80127, 80128, 80212, 80214, 80215, 80226, 80227, 80228, 80232, 80235, 80236, 80238, 80260, 80263, 80401, 80403, 80419, 80421, 80433, 80439, 80453, 80454, 80457, 80465, 80470

different hormones, notably cortisol and adrenaline, to prepare the body to respond to a physically or emotionally threatening situation. These hormones raise blood pressure and cholesterol levels and suppress the immune system. This is why men and women who are under chronic stress are at greater risk for illness, from the common cold to more severe issues like cancer and heart disease.


Following the initial stress response, both women and men release oxytocin, which helps scale back the production of other stress hormones and minimize their effects on the mind and body. However, women produce much more oxytocin than men do.


Lower levels of oxytocin leave men in a "fight or flight" state longer than women, motivating them to engage in confrontation or to sequester themselves through stonewalling or simply walking away from others. At this same stage, women are conversely motivated to start engaging in co-regulation and connection with others by engaging in nurturing behavior and communication.


This all means that when women are in the stage of stress deactivation and are seeking connection, they are more likely to encounter rejection by a male partner who is still in emotionally flooded and unable to connect. This rejection can cause distress and reactivation of the stress response and can ultimately increase depression for women who are unable to make the connections needed for them to fully de-escalate.


Women Are More Likely to Meet Diagnosis Criteria

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) lists diagnosis criteria for clinical diagnoses that fall under the umbrella of depressive disorders. Of these, women have a higher likelihood of being diagnosed with these disorders, including:

major depressive disorder, premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), and persistent depressive disorder (dysthymia). Given the patriarchal nature of the healthcare system, women may also be more prone to experiencing depressive disorder due to another medical condition.


A trained therapist can evaluate current symptoms and assess if you meet the diagnostic criteria for depression. A diagnosis of depression is often distinguished by the severity, and the impact symptoms have on your ability to function. The most common symptoms of depression a licensed counselor will assess for intensity and duration include:


  • Feeling sad, irritable, unhappy, or distressed all or most of the time

  • A loss of pleasure in activities you once loved and/or relationships

  • A lack of motivation to complete daily living tasks may cause difficulty maintaining a job, grades, relationships, etc.

  • A general lack of energy and an increased desire to sleep long hours or nap daily

  • Increase in self-isolation

  • Difficulty maintaining personal hygiene practices or being consistent with household chores and cleaning practices

  • Difficulty concentrating, completing tasks, making decisions, or remembering things

  • Appetite or weight changes

  • Sleep changes, such as insomnia or sleeping more than usual

  • Restlessness and agitation

  • Negative ruminating thoughts

  • Slow movements or speech that is noticeable by yourself or loved ones

  • Strong feelings of guilt and worthlessness

  • Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems without a clear physical cause that do not ease even with treatment

  • Thoughts of death, self-harm, or suicide


How to Reduce Depression as a Women

happy woman running on beach, 80010, 80011, 80019, 80022, 80024, 80030, 80031, 80102, 80137, 80216, 80221, 80229, 80233, 80234, 80241, 80249, 80260, 80601, 80602, 80603, 80640, 80642, 80643, 80012, 80013, 80014, 80015, 80016, 80017, 80018, 80045, 80101, 80102, 80103, 80110, 80111, 80112, 80113, 80120, 80121, 80122, 80123, 80124, 80129, 80130, 80131, 80134, 80136, 80137, 80138, 80220, 80222, 80224, 80231, 80237, 80246, 80247, 80290, 80014, 80123, 80201, 80202, 80203, 80204, 80205, 80206, 80207, 80208, 80209, 80210, 80211, 80212, 80216, 80218, 80219, 80220, 80221, 80222, 80223, 80224, 80226, 80227, 80230, 80231, 80232, 80233, 80235, 80236, 80237, 80238, 80239, 80246, 80247, 80249, 80250, 80260, 80264, 80265, 80266, 80273, 80274, 80279, 80290, 80291, 80293, 80294, 80295, 80299, 80014, 80022, 80123, 80127, 80128, 80202, 80203, 80204, 80205, 80206, 80207, 80208, 80209, 80210, 80211, 80212, 80216, 80218, 80219, 80220, 80221, 80222, 80223, 80224, 80226, 80227, 80229, 80230, 80231, 80232, 80233, 80234, 80235, 80236, 80237, 80238, 80239, 80241, 80246, 80247, 80249, 80250, 80264, 80265, 80266, 80273, 80274, 80290, 80291, 80293, 80294, 80295, 80299, 80301, 80302, 80303, 80304, 80305, 80306, 80307, 80308, 80309, 80310, 80314, 80403, 80455, 80466, 80471, 80481, 80501, 80503, 80504, 80510, 80516, 80533, 80540, 80544, 80027, 80021, 80020, 80234, 80026, 80023, 80516, 80436, 80438, 80439, 80444, 80452, 80476, 80422, 80427, 80002, 80003, 80004, 80005, 80007, 80021, 80033, 80034, 80123, 80127, 80128, 80212, 80214, 80215, 80226, 80227, 80228, 80232, 80235, 80236, 80238, 80260, 80263, 80401, 80403, 80419, 80421, 80433, 80439, 80453, 80454, 80457, 80465, 80470

Depression is a common but severe mood disorder that often requires outside support and professional treatment to overcome. Depression is not a sign of weakness, brokenness, or a character flaw. For women in particular, it is often a result of biological or systemic/environmental causes that require intervention to correct. The effects of gender-based oppression, objectification, relationship issues, abuse, loneliness, stress, grief, money problems, poor self-care habits, and more are all external factors that increase the likelihood of depression that can be helped by engaging in psychotherapy.


Improve Self-Care Routine (yes, this includes exercise!)

Hands down, the best thing you can do to start reducing symptoms of depression is to incorporate frequent, consistent exercise and gentle movement into your daily routine. Physical activity that requires the contraction of muscles, such as walking, yoga, or strength training, can significantly improve mood and reduce stress. At Her Time Therapy, we find that clients who work out regularly have significantly better outcomes.


Here's why: muscle contraction during exercise stimulates the release of endorphins, often referred to as natural anti-depressant hormones, which enhance feelings of well-being. Physical activity also increases the production of serotonin and dopamine, neurotransmitters that play crucial roles in overall mood regulation. By making exercise a regular part of their self-care habits, women can effectively manage stress, boost their mood, and foster a positive self-image, all of which are critical in reducing depression.


Increase Access to Social Support From Other Women

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Women need other women. Building and maintaining strong social connections with fellow women is crucial for combating depression because we are inherently social animals and benefit from giving and receiving support from others who "get it." Our clients often share that joining a women's therapy group or intentionally scheduling time with friends every month provides a unique kind of emotional comfort that only comes from other women validating that "what you're feeling is not crazy" and "I feel this way too." Close friends who share similar experiences or life circumstances tend to offer practical assistance and ideas that are shared from a "this is what worked for me" point of view.


Attend Regular Check-Ups & Build an Integrative Care Team

Physical health is closely linked to mental health. Women experiencing depression should not hesitate to seek medical evaluations for hormone levels, thyroid levels, and nutrient testing. Addressing any chronic or underlying health issues is an important first step toward preventing or managing depression. Our clients find that scheduling and attending regular check-ups plays a significant role in improving mental health. At the appointment with your physician, request bloodwork and comprehensive testing that they may not readily offer.


Women's symptoms, especially pain, are often downplayed, and it is difficult always to receive appropriate care unless you advocate for yourself by asking questions or requesting advanced testing and referrals to providers in other specialties. At Her Time Therapy, we often encourage our clients to ask their physicians to join an integrative care team. This means you can ask your doctor to collaborate with your therapist, psychiatrist, naturopath, or whatever other practitioners are in your corner supporting your holistic health and wellness.


Go Outside . . . or Take Vitamin D

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Did you know that low Vitamin D levels are often correlated with Depression? This can be especially prominent in those diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder or for those who live below the 37th parallel (a line across the country that designates those who are usually meeting or deficient in Vitamin D).


Spending time outdoors and exposing yourself to sunlight can boost mood and energy levels by giving your body what it needs to produce Vitamin D. Sunlight naturally also stimulates the production of serotonin, a hormone associated with mood regulation. If going outside is not feasible, taking Vitamin D supplements (only after confirming with a doctor that your levels are low and your regular diet doesn't provide adequate levels) can help compensate for the lack of sunlight, particularly during the winter months, and reduce the risk of depression.


Learn to Challenge and Reframe Negative Thinking Patterns

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As women, it is common to feel like the game of life is rigged. We live in a society that promotes comparison to ideal, unattainable beauty standards and conditions us from birth to be attractive, pleasing, and helpful to those around us, even when doing so destroys our well-being (we talk more about this in our blog post on Human Giver Syndrome).


Needless to say, the world we live in creates the perfect storm in women's minds that fosters negative self-talk, rumination, and catastrophic thinking patterns that eventually erode our self-esteem and feed depression. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, a core type of methodology employed by therapists at Her Time Therapy, teaches techniques you can employ yourself that are highly effective in reducing depression and stopping the destructive self-talk in its tracks. Even if you're a woman who has struggled with this your entire life, you can learn to identify and challenge negative thoughts, replacing them with more realistic and positive ones. This reframing process can reduce the intensity of depressive symptoms and promote a more optimistic outlook on life, empowering you to cope better with daily stressors.


Give Back and Practice Altruism

We get it—depression zaps motivation. When you're depressed, it's difficult to get out of bed and get dressed, so thinking about doing something for others seems completely unrealistic. Hear me out. Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a highly researched counseling method that teaches distress tolerance skills. One such skill is ACCEPTS (an acronym standing for activities, contributing, comparisons, emotions, pushing away, and sensations). When clients are in a particularly painful spot, ACCEPTS can be used to redirect attention from that internal pain outwards toward others in a healthy way, giving your painful emotions a chance to pass.


A key part of ACCEPTS is "contributing," as in contributing in such a way that you are engaged in helping someone else. Not only do you get distracted and moving, the other person gets assistance and feels cared for. It's a win-win! So next time depression is pulling you down, complete a random act of kindness, even a small one, such as texting a friend to wish them a great day, to create a positive feedback loop that combats feelings of depression.


Advocate for Yourself & For Other Women

While depression can, in part, be biologically based and require medication or medical

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treatments, for women, the root cause of depression is often grounded in the systemic effects of living in a patriarchal society. Women experience depression (and anxiety) at twice the rate of men. There is a clear reason for that. Fighting for gender equality and women's rights can be an empowering and productive way to improve mental health. Engaging in advocacy work can also purpose, connect you with the community where friendships may bloom, and reduce feelings of helplessness and isolation.


At Her Time Therapy, we are practitioners of Feminist Therapy, which is based on empowerment, and being your own advocate is an important part of that. So, by actively participating in movements that promote social justice and equality, by voting, and by talking to one another, women can find strength and solidarity, all of which are protective against depression.


Seek Professional Help for Depression: Psychotherapy + Medication

Professional help, including counseling provided by a licensed professional counselor

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specializing in women's mental health and, sometimes, medication, is critical to successfully managing depression. In extreme situations, like when depression has escalated to the point where it is difficult or impossible to engage in your daily routine (like going to work or engaging in relationships) or if suicidal thoughts are present, the support of a mental health professional can even be life-saving.


Therapists, like us at Her Time Therapy, provide tailored strategies to cope with depressive symptoms, while medications can correct chemical imbalances in the brain. Combining these treatments under the guidance of mental health professionals ensures a comprehensive approach to tackling depression, offering women the best chance for recovery and long-term mental health stability.


If you are struggling with symptoms of depression, schedule a free consultation call with a therapist at Her Time Therapy, PLLC. We are an integrative group counseling practice based in Denver, Colorado comprised of highly trained mental health therapists who specialize in providing convenient and empowering online mental health counseling for women in Colorado.


Call/Text (720) 255-1667 | info@hertimetherapy.com | www.hertimetherapy.com 





Meagan Clark, 80010, 80011, 80019, 80022, 80024, 80030, 80031, 80102, 80137, 80216, 80221, 80229, 80233, 80234, 80241, 80249, 80260, 80601, 80602, 80603, 80640, 80642, 80643, 80012, 80013, 80014, 80015, 80016, 80017, 80018, 80045, 80101, 80102, 80103, 80110, 80111, 80112, 80113, 80120, 80121, 80122, 80123, 80124, 80129, 80130, 80131, 80134, 80136, 80137, 80138, 80220, 80222, 80224, 80231, 80237, 80246, 80247, 80290, 80014, 80123, 80201, 80202, 80203, 80204, 80205, 80206, 80207, 80208, 80209, 80210, 80211, 80212, 80216, 80218, 80219, 80220, 80221, 80222, 80223, 80224, 80226, 80227, 80230, 80231, 80232, 80233, 80235, 80236, 80237, 80238, 80239, 80246, 80247, 80249, 80250, 80260, 80264, 80265, 80266, 80273, 80274, 80279, 80290, 80291, 80293, 80294, 80295, 80299, 80014, 80022, 80123, 80127, 80128, 80202, 80203, 80204, 80205, 80206, 80207, 80208, 80209, 80210, 80211, 80212, 80216, 80218, 80219, 80220, 80221, 80222, 80223, 80224, 80226, 80227, 80229, 80230, 80231, 80232, 80233, 80234, 80235, 80236, 80237, 80238, 80239, 80241, 80246, 80247, 80249, 80250, 80264, 80265, 80266, 80273, 80274, 80290, 80291, 80293, 80294, 80295, 80299, 80301, 80302, 80303, 80304, 80305, 80306, 80307, 80308, 80309, 80310, 80314, 80403, 80455, 80466, 80471, 80481, 80501, 80503, 80504, 80510, 80516, 80533, 80540, 80544, 80027, 80021, 80020, 80234, 80026, 80023, 80516, 80436, 80438, 80439, 80444, 80452, 80476, 80422, 80427, 80002, 80003, 80004, 80005, 80007, 80021, 80033, 80034, 80123, 80127, 80128, 80212, 80214, 80215, 80226, 80227, 80228, 80232, 80235, 80236, 80238, 80260, 80263, 80401, 80403, 80419, 80421, 80433, 80439, 80453, 80454, 80457, 80465, 80470

About the Author

Meagan Clark, MA LPC NCC BC-TMH is a Licensed Professional Counselor and the Founder and Clinical Director of Her Time Therapy, PLLC, a group therapy practice specializing in teletherapy for women. She received her Master of Arts degree in School and Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Adams State University and is a Board Certified Telemental Health Provider and Nationally Certified Counselor. As a psychotherapist, Meagan specializes in working with female-identifying teens and adults who suffer from trauma, relationship issues, anxiety, and grief. She is also a Certified Holistic Cancer coach and specializes in supporting cancer patients and caregivers struggling with compassion fatigue. Meagan believes strongly in the empowering nature of integrative and feminist therapy to give women the knowledge and tools they need to navigate gender-based oppression, increase resiliency, and empower themselves to create a life they love.


*Disclaimer: This blog does not provide medical advice and the information contained herein is for informational purposes only. This blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a licensed health provider before undertaking a new treatment or health care regimen. 


*Affiliate Disclosure: This post may contain ads and affiliate links that Her Time Therapy, LLC earns a small commission from when you make a purchase by clicking links on our site at no additional cost to you. As an Amazon Associate and Associate of Bookshop.org, we earn from qualified purchases. Rest assured, we only recommend products we've used ourselves and would feel comfortable recommending to clients to improve their physical, mental, and emotional well-being. 


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