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Silence and Withdrawal - where the man "punishes" the woman for her "behavior" by becoming silent and withdrawn.
Lack of Emotional Connection - where the woman reaches out for support and empathy, and the man withholds it (Chang 73-81).
It is easy to see how these conditions of verbal and mental abuse could lead to feelings of low self-esteem and depression in women. Author Chang quotes a woman stuck in a mentally abusive relationship as saying, "He complained I never communicated with him, but whenever I tried to communicate with him, he would always tell me why I was wrong to think that way. And so it finally reached a point of why bother. You know, I got tired of listening to him criticize me'" (37-year-old nurse) (Chang 73). Studies indicate that abuse in a relationship, no matter what type of abuse, can lead to long-term depression, especially when the abusive relationship is allowed to continue.
It is interesting to note that many of the women interviewed in mentally and verbally abusive relationships did become depressed, but did have the courage to eventually leave the relationships, unlike at least some of the women in physically abusive relationships. The mentally abusive relationships became too much for most women to take, but they were not afraid for their lives or well-being, simply their continued mental health and wellness. Many women in physically abusive relationships are afraid to leave because of threatened violence toward them or their families, and this can lead to even more severe depression and debilitation, as would be expected.
Author Chang notes that after mental and verbal abuse begins, women tend to deny it is happening. Women begin to view themselves as failures in these types of marriages, as author Chang clearly states. She says, "Relationship failures are experienced as their fault and may result in shame, guilt, and depression" (Chang 110). Depression is a common form of reaction to this type of abuse, because women lose their self-esteem and sense of self, and often become withdrawn, overweight, and even develop physical health problems (Chang 112). Thus, mental abuse can be just as harmful to the body as physical abuse, and because so many mentally abused women do not seek treatment for their depression, it may have even longer lasting results on at least some women than physical abuse does.
OTHER FORMS of DEPRESSION
As noted, women often suffer from depression during pregnancy and after childbirth. Author Ainsworth writes, "Postpartum depression is a serious illness that can threaten the lives of both the mother and her newborn. It is not a rare disorder, occurring in almost 15% of women" (Ainsworth 32). During pregnancy, women who are especially tied to their outward appearance may become depressed as they gain weight and undergo other body changes during pregnancy. They may feel less attractive to their partners, and they may find it difficult to cope with some of the changes during pregnancy, although these instances of depression are lower than some others (Editors).
Women undergoing menopause may find themselves more depressed and moody due to fluctuations in hormones and changes in the bodies they have known all their lives. Author Ainsworth continues, "Women commonly report episodes of depression associated with other major hormone changes in their life cycle -- i.e., while on birth control pills, following childbirth, and during menopause" (Ainsworth 28). Thus, women's moods are more tied to their bodies and the changes that they undergo each month and beyond, while men do not suffer from any of these body changes, and are less likely to suffer from depression as they age.
Another often-overlooked segment of women that suffer from depression are elderly women. While elderly women suffer less depression than younger women do overall, they are still prone to depression due to health and caregiving issues. Another author notes, "Because women outlive men, they are more likely to assume the role of caregiver. In fact, two-thirds of all caregivers are women. Caregivers frequently feel unsupported, have health problems, and experience a high rate of depression" (D'Mello 12). Elderly women may face other issues that can lead to depression, such as deteriorating health, financial issues, and loneliness, and they may have little contact with anyone who can help them, or even recognize they need help. What this indicates is that women throughout life can face depression issues, and that women suffer from depression more than men do. They need to understand the signs and symptoms of depression, and not be afraid to stand up and ask for help when they need it.
In conclusion, women suffer from depression more than men do, and women are the only ones to perform many special and essential tasks in our society, from getting pregnant to bearing children. All of these aspects of womanhood can add to depression, and so can physical, emotional, and mental abuse. Women are different, and so they suffer depression differently. For decades, there has been little differential between depression treatment for men and women, but finally, psychologists and researchers are understanding that women have different experiences and outlooks in many areas, and their mental health should be treated differently from men. Depression is an expensive and difficult disease to treat and cure, and the treatment of depressed women should not be ignored or ridiculed. It should be stressed, applauded, and enhanced to help more women who may be afraid to seek treatment for their depression, no matter what the cause or cost.
Ainsworth, Patricia. Understanding Depression. Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 2000.
Chang, Valerie Nash. I Just Lost Myself. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers, 1996.
D'Mello, Dale a. "1 Epidemiology of Late-Life Depression." Depression in Later Life: A Multidisciplinary Psychiatric Approach. Ed. James M. Ellison and Sumer Verma. New York: Marcel Dekker, 2003. 1-26.
Editors. "Depression: What Every Woman Should Know." National Institute for Mental Health. 2007. 30 Nov. 2007. http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/depression-what-every-woman-should-know/summary.shtml
Ellison, James M., and Sumer Verma, eds. Depression in Later Life: A Multidisciplinary Psychiatric Approach. New York: Marcel Dekker, 2003.
Stewart, Sherry H. "Chapter 5 Substance Abuse and Co-Occurring Psychiatric Disorders in Victims of Intimate Violence." The Violence and Addiction Equation: Theoretical and Clinical Issues in Substance Abuse and Relationship Violence. Ed. Christine Werkle and Anne-Marie Wall. New York: Brunner/Routledge, 2002. 98-122.
Worrell, Marcia. "Chapter 12 Working at Being Survivors."…[continue]
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