Etiology of Depression in Women

| September 5, 2012

Depression in women occurs as a result of the interaction of multiple factors. Genetic tendencies have been shown to play a role; however, not all depressed women have a positive genetic history. An imbalance in the level of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and norepinephrine (e.g. decreased serotonin and nor-epinephrine at the synaptic level) have also been proposed. This is the basis for the use of such medications as SSRIs or selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors and tricyclic antidepressants. SSRIs inhibit the reabsorption of serotonin by the presynaptic neurons and thus increase the availability of serotonin at the synapse to act on postsynaptic membrane. Tricyclic antidepressants inhibit the reabsorption of serotonin and norepinephrine by presynaptic membrane and thus make them available to activate the post synaptic receptors. Hormones have also been proposed to be correlated with mood. For example at certain points in a woman’s life such as puberty, luteal phase of the period, before, during or right after childbirth changes in mood have been observed. Therefore, female hormones might be responsible for some of these affective problems including premenstrual dysphoric disorder and postpartum depression. Finally, stress has been widely studied and correlated with depression. Stress may occur due to difficult relationships, intimate partner violence, birth of  an infant, illness of the children and so forth. In short, biological tendencies (heredity) and invalidating harsh environments (stress) interact to cause depression


NIMH · What causes depression in women?.