‘Depression drives homemaker to suicide’ was one of the headlines in a leading daily some months ago (http://www.deccanherald.com/content/536757/depression-drives-homemaker-suicide.html). The deceased had been described as a ‘leading a happy life’ by her family. What would drive a woman leading a happy life to leave her 5-year-old at the neighbor’s and return home to hang to her death? The news report went on to add that the woman had recently slipped into depression and was being treated for it.
Not too long after, a sponsored post on Facebook was doing viral rounds. It read: ‘Is your wife experiencing Homemaker Depression? It’s Real!’
If one sets out to discover, there is no dearth of scholarly articles, medical research papers, personal accounts and your usual ‘10 Ways to cure…’ listicles on the topic. Here’s my take away from the information I gathered:
According to a National Institute of Mental Health report published in the US in 1997, women are twice more prone to depression than men, and this can be attributed to stress from family and work responsibilities, increasing expectations of women, and quickly changing societal roles.
A study on Depression in Women in Indian context (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4539868/), states that lifetime prevalence of depression in women is 10-25 percent, where as for men it is 5-12 percent. Statistics released by WHO (http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Women-more-prone-to-depression-than-men-Indians-worst-hit-WHO/articleshow/16746142.cms) also reiterate that Indian women are a 50 percent higher risk of depression as compared to their male counterparts.
So, what is homemakers’ depression? How is it different from your regular blues? And how must one deal with it?
As per the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders,
Homemakers’ Depression can be classified as a form of clinical depression that can impair one’s physical appearance, social behavior, sense of well-being, and the ability to deal with everyday pressures. Some of the key symptoms include:
- Persistent sadness and anxiety
- Feeling tearful, upset, unmotivated, and lonely
- Sleeping too little or too much
- Constant sense of inadequacy or guilt
- Poor concentration and memory
- Decreased appetite and weight loss
- Constant feeling of lethargy
- Complete lack of interest in things one was once passionate about
- Missing sex drive
- Suicidal thoughts.
We all have our low moments when we may experience some of these symptoms, but that doesn’t necessarily signal depression. However, if you have been grappling with five or more of these symptoms for two weeks or more, it is advisable to seek professional help.
In any job, one’s efforts are quantified in terms of a monthly remuneration, promotions and other perks. A homemaker’s job, on the other hand, requires a lot of consistent hard work without any tangible returns. In such a scenario, a lack of appreciation and acknowledgement from the members of the family, especially one’s spouse, can trigger a sense of dejection and lead to onset of depression. Besides, inadequate preparedness for taking on domestic responsibilities and a sense of isolation due to spending a great deal of time in the confines of the house are also factors that can trigger depression in homemakers.
Dealing with Homemakers’ Depression
Seeking help is one of most poignant challenges for those grappling with this form of clinical depression because of factors such as inability to recognize the condition and social stigma attached to it.
Only one in three depressed women are likely to ever seek treatment or take corrective measures to address the problem.
Is It Treatable?
Yes. Like any other form of clinical depression, this too can be treated with the right kind of medical assistance. Cases of moderate depression can be treated with therapies such as yoga, meditation or exercise, as these activities increase norepinephrine levels in the body, which in turn helps in controlling the feelings of stress and anxiety that the root cause of depression in homemakers. In more complex cases, a patient may be put on a mix of therapy and antidepressant meds until the likelihood of a reoccurrence can be ruled out.