Martha Jefferson Healthwise--September 26th

Pat Cheeks is a midlife services coordinator for Martha Jefferson Hospital and explains that some factors in connection to female depression. Unique to women's lives are suspected to play a role in developing depression, especially at midlife and beyond, including reproductive and hormonal; genetic or other biological factors; abuse and oppression; interpersonal factors; and certain psychological and personality characteristics.

Major depression is a mood disorder characterized by one or more major depressive episodes -- i.e., at least two weeks of depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure in nearly all activities -- accompanied by at least four additional symptoms such as changes in sleep, appetite, or weight, and psychomotor activity; decreased energy; feelings of worthlessness or guilt; difficulty thinking, concentrating, or making decisions; or recurrent thoughts of death or suicidal ideation, plans, or attempts.

Depression is a common and highly treatable disorder affecting more than 15 million, or up to eight percent, of American adults annually -- National Alliance on Mental Illness -- Once identified, depression can almost always be successfully treated either by psychotherapy, medication, or a combination of both. Women constitute two-thirds of patients suffering from common depressive disorders, making the treatment of depression in women a substantial public health concern --Altshuler et. al. 2001 -- Unfortunately, depression is under diagnosed and under treated by primary care and other non-mental health practitioners -- Agency for Health Care Policy and Research -- Women are approximately twice as likely as men to suffer from major depression -- National Mental Health Association, 2004 -- and depression has been called a significant mental health risk for women --WHO 2000.

Gender disparities do exist regarding the diagnosis and treatment of depression. It is misdiagnosed approximately 30 to 50 percent of the time. Approximately 70 percent of the prescriptions for antidepressants are given to women, often with improper diagnosis and monitoring. Prescription drug misuse is a very real danger for women -- McGrath et al., 1990.

Major depression is commonly underdiagnosed in primary care, where providers are believed to miss the diagnosis of depression in 50 percent of their affected primary care patients -- Depression Guideline Panel 1993. Over longer periods of time, primary care physicians may recognize depression in as many as 86% of the persistently depressed patients seen in clinical practice

Yoga's postures, controlled breathing and meditation may work together to help ease brains plagued by anxiety or depression, a new study shows.
Brain scans of yoga practitioners showed a healthy boost in levels of the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric -- GABA -- immediately after a one-hour yoga session. Low brain levels of GABA are associated with anxiety and depression, the researchers said.
"I am quite sure that this is the first study that's shown that there's a real, measurable change in a major neurotransmitter with a behavioral intervention such as yoga," said lead researcher Dr. Chris Streeter, assistant professor of psychiatry and neurology at the Boston University School of Medicine.

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