What is Depression?
Major depressive disorder, also known as depression, is a common but serious mood disorder. Depression causes severe symptoms that impact how someone feels, thinks, and handles daily activities including sleeping, eating, or working. To be diagnosed with depression someone must experience some of the following signs and symptoms most of the day, nearly every day, for at least two weeks:
- Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
- Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
- Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities
- Decreased energy or fatigue
- Moving or talking more slowly
- Feeling restless or having trouble sitting still
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
- Difficulty sleeping, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
- Appetite and/or weight changes
- Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts
- Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems without a clear physical cause and/or that do not ease even with treatment
How Common is Depression in Female Veterans?
Female veterans are almost 250% more likely to commit suicide as compared to female civilians. Research has found that depression is the second most common disability among female veterans and that they have much higher rates of depression than men. A study published in Women’s Health Issues found that 20% of female veteran screened positive for depression as compared to only 12% of men.
In addition to this, female veteran typically experience significant psychological comorbidities, with 48% of those with depression also screening positive for PTSD and 65% indicating general anxiety.
What Causes Depression in Female Veterans?
The Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN) has studied the effects of serving in small women’s teams in combat zones and found that these roles create stress beyond the normal ones of combat.
Women may be pulled from the support networks in their own units and sent to locations where they see heavy combat. On base between missions women may feel as though they cannot let their guard down because of the risk for military sexual trauma.
SWAN released several recommendations on the mental health needs to women service members and veterans. The key recommendation was to establish stronger social support groups and networks for military women. One large avenue of support is through the VA healthcare system. Research has shown that women who receive VA health care are less likely to commit suicide.
Female Veterans Getting Care for Depression
Although women veterans experience depression at much higher rates than their male counterparts, they are more likely to receive adequate care and report symptom improvement. It has been found that 57% of women who initially identified with depression receives depression care, compared to 39% of men.
Adequate care was defined as follows:
- Four or more mental health specialist visits in the six months following the positive screen for depression; or
- Having taken medication for at least 26 days in the last month or for more than 25 days per month in three consecutive months during the 6-month follow up period.
Veterans Help Group have been supporting veterans in getting the benefits they deserve since 1995. If you or a loved one served, and suffer from depression, we are here to help. Call Veterans Help Group at 855-855-8992 or complete our free veterans benefits case evaluation form.