October 21, 2014 – Assistant Professor Donna Donoghue, MD presented a program on Dealing with Depression as part of Women’s Health Day on Saturday October 18, 2014.
Dr. Donoghue pointed out that 9 % of American adults, the majority of whom are women, suffer from depression each year. After dispelling some misconceptions about depression (that it is self-indulgent or the result of choice, for example) Dr. Donoghue reviewed the symptoms of depression, noting that they vary from person to person and are typically different in women and men.
Dr. Donoghue cautioned her audience not to ignore threats of suicide, but to encourage an open and sympathetic discussion about it. “You don’t give a suicidal person ideas of suicide by talking about it,” she said.
Hormonal deficiencies can cause depression in women, particularly lower than normal levels of estrogen and progesterone, as can high or low levels of cortisol. “Anytime we have a fluctuation of hormones – such as pregnancy, postpartum, PMS or menopause – there is always a possibility for mood changes as well,” Dr. Donoghue said. Depression can also spring from stress, problems with relationships, difficulties balancing responsibilities at work and home or stressful life events. A variety of treatments are available including medications and psychotherapy. In addition to professional treatment, women can help themselves by eliminating the use of substances or alcohol, exercising, eating a sensible diet and applying good sleep hygiene. “Be kind to yourself,” Dr. Donoghue said, “and do not make any major life decisions while you are depressed.”
She concluded with some words of advice for friends and family: avoid critical comments, empathize, encourage people with depression to get help. “If you are concerned that they will harm themselves” Dr. Donoghue said, “seek help from the nearest emergency room or call 911.”
Women’s Health Day is sponsored annually by the Department of Community Relations at Stony Brook Medicine. The keynote speaker at this year’s event was actress and author Mariel Hemmingway.