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Differences Between Men & Women with Depression

Men and women share similarities when it comes to the causes and symptom of depression, but there are still nuanced differences between the two. Appreciating these similarities and differences is not only important for the treatment outcome of each sex, but also in understanding and appreciating depression in the opposite sex and between spouses.

Depression is the most common psychological based disorder that affects people today. Depression can negatively affect a persons emotional, mental, social, and physical health and well-being. Depression sufferers are dominated by sad, negative and despairing moods, decreased self-esteem and confidence, lack of enjoyment in every day things, loss of interest, loss of appetite, and insomnia. Although everyone goes through moments where these symptoms are present in their life, for a depressed person, these feelings persist and they are unable to eliminate these bad feelings without therapeutical or pharmacological intervention.

Statistics show that among the general population, depression affects 10 to 20 percent of women and 5 to 12 percent of men. Among the adult population, depression affects 5 to 9 percent of women, and 2 to 3 percent of men. The National Institute of Mental Health reports that 2.5 percent of children and 8.3 percent adolescents also suffer from depression. Unfortunately, a large portion of the population affected by depression remains undiagnosed and untreated.

Knowing the causes of depression can help prevent this illness and steer depression sufferers towards treatment. Depression causes that are the most common for both sexes include:

  • Genetic vulnerability
  • Chemical changes in the brain: Includes deficient amounts neurotransmitters (serotonin and norepinephrine) and an imbalance of the hormone cortisol.
  • Environmental Situations
  • Substance Abuse
  • Lack of exercise
  • Nutritional deficiencies (folic acid, magnesium, vitamins B & C, calcium, & potassium)
  • Excessive consumption of sucrose (sugar), caffeine, magnesium or vanadium.
  • Amino acids imbalance (phenylalanine, tyrosine, Gamma-aminobutyric acid- GABA)
  • Medical Disorders (diabetes, heart disease, stroke, cancer).
  • Medication side-effects.

Women are twice as likely to develop depression than men. According to mental health experts, 12 million women in the US experience the symptoms of depression each year, and occurs more frequently in women 25 to 44, the age period when women are bombarded with many of life's familiar problem and pitfalls. The causes of depression in women can be organized into two main categories: internal, and environmental. With internal causes of depression, women may have inherited a genetic vulnerability to depression or other mood disorders, have hormonal imbalances that cause emotional disturbance which include: pregnancy (including postpartum depression), menstruation, puberty, and menopause. Environmental factors of depression in women most often include: financial problems, marital status, marital discord, work overload, pressures of parenthood, sexual, physical and mental abuse by a partner, death of a parent or spouse, and health problems.

The aspects of depression in men share some similarities and differences when compared to women. While only an estimated 6 million men in the United States experience depression each year, this number may be under reported as depression is seen as a weakness and character flaw by men who are taught to be strong and capable. Unfortunately, the consequences of keeping their depression hidden often manifests itself in anger, irritable behavior, a short temper, and intolerance. The causes of depression for men share some similarities with women, as well as difference. The most common causes and risk factors include: inherited genetic vulnerability to depression and mood disorders, financial and career pressures, parenting and "breadwinner" pressures, alcohol and drug abuse, divorce, death in the family, decreased sexual ability, chronic health problems, and fatigue from responsibilities (men are less capable of accepting life's responsibilities than women).

The risk of suicide for men is much greater than women with 80 percent of all successful suicides performed by men. The reason for this higher rate is thought to center on the fact that men are less likely to talk about their depression, acknowledge it, and seek help. However, if more men and women are able to recognize and confront the general causes of depression, prevention and treatment is more likely to be successful.

Treatment for depression in both men and women is possible with cognitive behavioral therapy (type of therapy that focuses on thoughts, not external events or actions), interpersonal psychotherapy, family therapy, marriage counseling, and pharmacotherapy (medication). Despite the popularity of antidepressants, mental health experts advise that medication primarily treats the "symptoms," while therapy can address the "root causes." Mental health counselors today are highly trained and skilled in addressing the different and shared needs of depression in both men and women.

Source: Alina Morrow, LPC

Updated: 10/02/2015