Depression is a mental illness and a mood disorder. It goes beyond the usual feelings of sadness, which are mild and short-lived for most of us. Someone with depression feels hopeless and lifeless. They go through periods of depression that last for days, weeks or even months. The symptoms of the illness are often so bad that they interfere with routine activities and even being able to eat or sleep properly. These are the common experiences of depression, but beyond these, men and women often have different symptoms and responses to this mood disorder.
Prevalence of Depression
The first striking difference between men and women when it comes to depression is that women are much more susceptible to it. For women of all age groups, from puberty through adulthood, the risks of having depression are two times that for men. Approximately one in five women will develop depression at some point. Reasons for a greater rate of this mental illness in women are not known with certainty. Some experts suggest that premenstrual problems, pregnancy, postpartum depression, menopause, unequal status, abuse and stress from being overworked could be contributing factors.
How Women Experience Depression
One of the main factors implicated in women being more likely to experience depression is hormones. Women undergo many lifetime hormonal changes, and they are often major, such as during and after pregnancy. These hormonal cycles can not only make women more susceptible to depression, but also mean that they experience the disorder differently from men. For example, only women are able to experience the depression that comes with being pregnant and giving birth. It is perfectly normal for women to have the baby blues for a week or two after giving birth due to the hormone shifts going on in the body. However, they can also develop a severe case of postpartum depression that persists without treatment. Women are also at risk for depression during menopause, another time of hormonal changes. This type of depression is associated with bone loss due to osteoporosis. Even without considering the hormonal changes that women experience and men do not, women are more likely than men to have certain symptoms of depression. Women with depression mostly feel sad, worthless, guilty and hopeless. They feel burdened by their depression and the guilt of not properly caring for family or handling responsibilities.
How Men Experience Depression
Men suffering from depression may feel sad and worthless, as depressed women do, but they are more likely to have other symptoms. These include anger, irritability, excessive tiredness, difficulty sleeping and a loss of interest in once-enjoyable activities. Men also respond differently to depression. While women are more likely to ask for help, men are more likely to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol. They are also more likely to avoid dealing with their feelings by distracting themselves with work or by engaging in reckless behaviors. More men die from suicide than women, although women attempt it more often. Depression is a serious mental illness. At worst it can be fatal if left untreated, and at best it can make life miserable and even cause physical symptoms in the sufferer. Whether you are a man or a woman, it is important to get help if you feel the symptoms of depression. Treatments like therapy and medication work and can help you get better.