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Women’s Health: Depression

Clinical depression is a complex and serious medical condition that affects both men and women and can affect all ages, from infants to the elderly. It is a condition that may cause severe symptoms that can impact the way you feel, think and handle daily activities like eating, sleeping, working and participating in activities you normally like. Depression is primarily a mood disturbance that is considered serious, disabling and potentially fatal. It can range from mild to moderate, severe, and very profound states of despair, and may be accompanied by thoughts of suicide.

About 120 suicides occur every day in the U.S. and suicide is the only top-10 cause of death that is increasing every year. For every suicide, there are 25 suicide attempts; and most attempts are unreported. Symptoms of depression last for greater than two weeks and include:

  • Feelings of sadness, tearfulness, emptiness or hopelessness
  • Loss of interest in activities or hobbies that you once enjoyed
  • Change in appetite or loss of appetite
  • Sleep disturbances, including insomnia or sleeping too much
  • Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
  • Fatigue and decreased energy
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness and/or helplessness
  • Irritability or restlessness
  • Recurrent thoughts of death or suicidal thoughts

Although depression affects both men and women, women experience depression at higher rates than men due to particular changes that uniquely affect them; however, this does not mean that all women will experience depression during these unique periods of times, such as:

  1. Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder: a more severe form of premenstrual symptoms (PMS), which includes moodiness and irritability in the weeks before monthly menstruation. PMDD can be quite serious with disabling feelings such as anger, sadness, suicidal thoughts, bloating, breast tenderness, appetite changes and joint or muscle pain.
  2. Perinatal Depression: the period of time that includes the pregnancy itself, as well as time after birth (“baby blues”). For some women, physical discomfort associated with nausea and vomiting, and weight gain can occur along with mood swings. The physical and emotional challenges associated with caring for a new life can be overwhelming.
  3. Perimenopausal Depression: the time when the monthly menses slow down and become irregular before ending can lead to problems sleeping, mood swings, and “hot flashes”. If a woman is feeling extremely irritable, anxious or sad, or experience a loss of enjoyment in life, then she may be experiencing perimenopausal depression.

Millions of people all over the world deal with depression every day, and it is so common that it has been thought of as the “common cold of mental illness.” It is important for individuals to understand that they are not alone when experiencing these deeply saddened and sometimes suicidal thoughts. What is most important is to tell someone – your obstetrician, gynecologist, primary care doctor, nurse, dentist, chiropractor, friend, co-worker, family member or spiritual advisor. This friend, family or concerned other will need to get the individual to an experienced physician or nurse practitioner for a clinical examination and evaluation. At Cone Health, safety is our focus! It’s most important to talk to other people, and keep talking and seeking someone who lends support to you. Stay connected to other people! If you have any concerns or are experiencing symptoms of depression, it’s of utmost importance that you talk to your primary care physician, or reach out to a psychiatrist, counselor or therapist.

Cone Health Behavioral Health Hospital serves children, adolescents and adults who need an evaluation or assessment by linking them with the right service at the right level and at the right time. This may include a variety of services such as counseling (“talk therapy”), tele-psych services, inpatient hospitalization, outpatient therapy, partial hospitalization or medications.

Nurse-Family Partnership Program is a nationally recognized nursing-based health service that offers low-income, first-time pregnant women a nurse-partner who forms a supportive relationship and visits with the women in the home through pregnancy and up until the newborn turns 2 years old. This program has 10 locations in 16 counties in North Carolina, including Guilford.

Spokesperson Background:

Dr. Kim Hutchinson is an advanced practice clinical nurse specialist specializing in behavioral health and addictions at Cone Health. Kim received her Bachelor of Science in primary care nursing from Fairfield University in 1977 and her Master of Science in nursing in child/adolescent mental health from Lehman College in New York in 1982. She received her doctorate in educational psychology from Northern Illinois University College of Education in 1996. She also received a Master of Science in epidemiology and health services research from Wake Forest University in 2003.