Health Issues among Incarcerated Women

By Ronald L. Braithwaite; Kimberly Jacob Arriola et al. | Go to book overview

6
Mood Disorders in
Incarcerated Women

SAUNDRA MAASS-ROBINSON
PAMELA EVERETT THOMPSON

It is well established in research literature that women are at greater risk for depression than are men, especially during the reproductive years (Kornstein and Wojcik 2000). Lifetime prevalence rates approximating a two-to-one ratio of depressed women to depressed men is a robust figure that has remained constant even in the most recent international study conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO) in fourteen countries (Maier et al. 1999). Studies have also shown women to be more likely than men to experience the onset of depression following a stressful event involving self or others (Nazroo, Edwards, and Brown 1997). Given the propensity of women to experience clinical depression over the course of their lifetimes, the incarceration of females represents a particularly exacerbating event for mood disorders, defined as conditions “that have a disturbance in mood as the predominant feature” (American Psychiatric Association 2000, 345).

Incarceration poses extreme and uncontrollable challenges in the areas empirically determined to be the most likely precipitants for depression in females. In addition, incarceration creates unique challenges for mental health professionals who are working in an environment that often reinforces the very factors associated with the development of mood disorders. These disturbances in mood may include features of depression, mania, hypomania, and/or mixed episodes.

There are a number of clinical conditions that present primarily as a depressed mood. The hallmark of these disorders is major depressive disorder or MDD. Other conditions include dysthymic disorder, depressive disorder NOS (which includes premenstrual dysphoric disorder), adjustment disorder with depressive features, bipolar I or bipolar II disorder characterized by one or more depressive episodes, cyclothymic disorder, schizoaffective disorder, and/or depression secondary to substance use or a medical condition.

Unfortunately, the proportion of women who are in jails and prisons has

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