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Differences Between Men & Women
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
- Amino acids imbalance (phenylalanine, tyrosine, Gamma-aminobutyric
- 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
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,
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.