How Depression in Women Differs From Men

Did you know that women are almost twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with depression. Why is that? Health experts have come up with several explanations, such as women’s hormonal differences and the fact that women are generally more willing to seek help. The good news is that once depression is diagnosed, it can be treated. 

Ways depression in women differs from men:

  • Women are more likely to experience depression at a younger age. 
  • Depression is more likely to last longer and recur in women more than men. 
  • In women, depression is more likely to be associated with major life events and seasonal changes. 
  • Women are more likely to experience feelings of guilt and shame because of their depression. Therefore, women are reported to be more suicidal, despite men having a higher success rate. 
  • Depression in women is more likely to be associated with anxiety disorders, especially panic disorders, phobic symptoms, and eating disorders.
  • Depressed women are less likely to abuse alcohol and other drugs than men.

Hormonal Differences

The transition into menopause, known as perimenopause, is commonly associated with depression. The discomforts of hot flashes and night sweats, which can lead to a lack of sleep, have been known to cause depression. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), not getting enough sleep plays a large role in mood and may even increase your risk of dementia.

Anxiety & Stress

Women were almost twice as likely to be affected by anxiety than men, according to a 2016 study in Brain & Behavior. Juggling work and household duties or caring for elderly family members can take a toll. (Women make up about 60 percent of family caregivers.)

Trauma such as emotional, physical or sexual abuse, has been found more in women which can place them at an increased risk for depression. “Even as adolescent girls. they see more incidences of sadness and self-esteem, which carry across our lifespan,” says Helen L. Coons, clinical director for Women’s Behavioral Health & Wellness at the University of Colorado School of Medicine’s Department of Psychiatry. 

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As a trauma response, women are more likely to internalize their emotions than males. “We (women) tend to be more stressed, we tend to worry more, we tend to ruminate a little more,” says Coons. “That destabilizes things like sleep and mood.”

Different Symptoms

Depression simply shows up differently in men, who often appear angry or irritable, rather than sad. This tendency can be traced back to boyhood, a time when many men are socialized to believe that it is unacceptable to show vulnerability. As According to Brian P. Cole, an assistant professor of counseling psychology at the University of Kansas puts it: Men are encouraged to “play through the pain.”

Read more about Depression in Seniors: How Medicare Can Help.

If you’re having suicidal thoughts:

  • Call your doctor or mental health professional.
  • Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255). Use that same number and press “1” to reach the Veterans Crisis Line.
  • Contact a minister, spiritual leader, or someone else in your faith community.
  • If you have a loved one who you believe is in danger of suicide or has made a suicide attempt, it is important to make sure that person is never alone. 
  • Always call 911 or your local emergency number immediately, if you believe your loved one is at risk of harming themselves. If you think you can do so safely, take the person to the nearest hospital emergency room.

Sources:

Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2017, June 2). Depression and anxiety can occur together. Read about the connection. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/expert-answers/depression-and-anxiety/faq-20057989. 

Remes, O., Brayne, C., Linde, R. van der, & Lafortune, L. (2016, June 5). A systematic review of reviews on the prevalence of anxiety disorders in adult populations. Wiley Online Library. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/brb3.497. 

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