Risk Factors for Depression
Individuals with MS have a greater risk of experiencing a depressive episode at some point in time. Fifty percent of individuals with MS will become depressed during their lifetime, compared to less than 20 percent of the American population. However, if you know you are at risk, you can be proactive: watching for signs and symptoms, and seeking help as soon as warning signs appear.
Women, who are twice as likely to have MS, are nearly twice as likely as men to experience depression. This is attributed to many factors. Hormonal fluctuations such as menopause, pregnancy, menstrual changes, miscarriage, and the postpartum period may trigger depressive episodes. Women who have multiple family responsibilities such as childrearing and caring for elderly parents are under tremendous stress, as are single moms. Mothers with disabilities face greater challenges and must wrestle with concern for their children, along with their own wellbeing. All of these challenges can make women vulnerable to depression as well as other illnesses.
One reason that fewer men are diagnosed with depression might be because they are less likely than women to seek appropriate treatment. As a result, they are more likely to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol, or develop a gambling addiction, rather than seek the help of a therapist and take prescribed antidepressants. Depressive symptoms for men may present as irritability or anger; for men who do seek therapy, these symptoms may be mistakenly treated as the primary issues, rather than the underlying depression.
Those who have a predisposition to depression prior to their MS diagnosis may be at an even higher risk for depression. Depressive disorders are one-and-a-half to three times more common among those whose parents suffered from depression. Furthermore, other factors such as a chronic medical condition, lack of social supports, and substance dependence, may also contribute to the onset of depression. Understanding these risk factors, recognizing depressive symptoms, and seeking treatment, may play a significant role with improving one’s quality of life, and possibly prevent potential thoughts of suicide.