Gender Differences in Depression
A better understanding of the prevalence of the disorder, however, does nothing to diminish the serious nature of depression. Those that suffer from the ongoing feelings of hopelessness and sadness may experience difficulty in their everyday lives. If a depressed individual does not have an adequate support system, they may struggle to get appropriate treatment and improve their quality of life.
An article appearing in Huffington Post provides insight for understanding depression as it affects males and females. There are significant differences in how men and women experience depression, both in their symptoms and how they cope.
The article highlights the expertise of Jill Goldstein, director of research at the Connors Center for Women’s Health and Gender Biology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. Goldstein says that gender differences in depression have been known for years and understanding them is important when attempting to understand the nature of the disorder.
Women are much more likely than men to develop depression. The cause for the difference can be linked to biological factors, like hormones and genetic disruptions during development in the male or female fetus. This disruption during early fetal development can lead to vulnerabilities for developing a mood disorder.
Women, in general, tend to be more aware of their emotions and able to describe what they are feeling. Men, however, tend to not recognize the symptoms of depression, or attempt to hide feelings of unhappiness.
One key difference noted between genders is the tendency of women to ruminate. Ruminating can include dwelling on negative feelings or reciting them over and over. Ruminating can also include negative self-talk or self-blame, and often makes the patient feel worse.
When dealing with depression, men are more likely to turn to alcohol or other substances before depression sets in. Women tend to begin substance abuse after the onset of depression. Men may also engage in risky behaviors to mask their feelings, taking part in activities like gambling or unsafe sex. Anger and irritability are two other ways that depression can be exhibited in men.
In general, women are more likely to develop symptoms of depression following a stressful event. A death, the loss of a job or a frustrating relationship may all be triggers for a female to develop depression. Goldstein believes that there may be several factors at play, such as stress hormones, reproductive hormones and mood-regulating neurotransmitters.
Men are more likely to exhibit symptoms that are more difficult to recognize as depression when compared to women. In many cases, depression in men can reach a severe stage before it is recognized and diagnosed.
Another important difference is the likelihood that a women who is depressed is also suffering from an eating disorder when compared with men. Depression and eating disorders can be a package deal for women, and can make treatment more complicated.
While not widely documented in research, scientists are beginning to explore the differences in the ways that male and female bodies process antidepressants. There may be differences in the way that the medications are metabolized and absorbed into the body.
Finally, men are more likely to commit suicide in response to their symptoms of depression. This is largely due to the fact that many men are never diagnosed with depression because their symptoms are not recognized.
The differences between males and females in the symptoms and treatment for depression warrant an individualized treatment program for each gender. Given the high rate of eating disorders in women and misdiagnosis in men, treatment may be challenging. However, as experts better understand the differences in gender and depression, they may be able to develop highly effective treatment strategies.