Is Depression Really a 'Woman's Disease'?


Depression is a major illness that many people in our society struggle with every day.  Its prevalence is unquestioned--people have been diagnosed with this psychological disorder for many years.  Now, researchers are asking new questions:  Does gender have anything to do with it?  Are women more likely to be depressed than men?  New research has led psychologists to make some interesting conclusions.

For many years, it was believed that women were much more likely to have major depression than men--70% more likely, to be exact (Healy).  However, according to a study recently published by the JAMA Psychiatry journal, when depressive symptoms "are properly recognized in men, major depression may be even more common in men than in women" (Healy).  How was this conclusion reached?  Researchers from the University of Michigan and Vanderbilt University created two new checklists in which they took into account possibly gender-specific symptoms of depression.  While keeping familiar symptoms such as sadness, hopelessness and worthlessness on the list, the team added some new symptoms such as aggression, substance abuse and risk-taking (Healy).

The new surveys--one gender-inclusive and the other consisting of the new "male" symptoms--were administered to "nearly 5,700 American adults who had been interviewed as part of a long-term study of mental health" organized by Harvard Medical School (Healy).  When participants were assessed with the male symptoms scale, "26.3% of men and 21.9% of women were said to have experienced a major depressive episode in their lifetimes," a difference that could not be due to chance (Healy).

The results of this survey make it clear that the way a man experiences depression may very well differ from the way a woman does.  Psychology has long neglected these "male" symptoms, like anger and hyperactivity, creating a gender bias and leading society to believe that men do not need treatment for emotional hurt.  "These findings," concluded the study authors, "could lead to important changes in the way depression is conceptualized and measured" (Healy).

According to UCLA psychiatrist Dr. Andrew Leuchter, updating official diagnostic criteria to reflect these differences is only the first step.  The next is to "assess whether the treatments currently available -- antidepressants and talk therapy -- would help men with these symptoms" (Healy).  If men are suffering from different symptoms, shouldn't they receive different treatment as well?  I think these findings are groundbreaking as they are changing the way psychiatrists interpret and approach depression.  Many depressed men may not actually realize that they are depressed simply because of this gender bias in psychology and in society overall.




I enjoyed this post because I think its something that not many people know about or would think is true. When I read the title I was interested because its a misconception that depression is looked at as being more common in women than men. I used to think that until going through a stage in my life where it was first introduced to me and realized it was real. I have also seen my friends go through it at times, although I agree that men show it in a different way like using anger and aggressiveness to feel better. I feel depression has a lot to do with genetics because the way it runs in my family allows me to see it up close. It is not anything major, but an emotional bunch of Italians have genetic history of depression and anxiety. Sometimes when I feel myself getting stressed I get even more angry because I know I shouldn't be getting that worked up and feel I can't control it. This is me acting like my grandpa who I mostly am identical to genetically. I also think the aggressive trait that is more common in men than women has an impact on depression because too much anger becomes overwhelming. To extend further on depression correlating with genetics, here is an article all about it.

This post actually opened my eyes a bit. My older brother has suffered of depression for a long time. He has tried multiple medications but hasn't found anything that has truly helped him feel better about himself and about his life. I remember him always saying that the medications were making him feel worse than he already was. I was convinced he was in denial and that he didn't want help. However, when I look at it through this light I'm finding that maybe there's a difference between men and women and their forms of depression. If doctors were able to form a medication that could help depressed males specifically, I wonder what would happen if a female took that medication. Would she feel worse like my brother did when he was taking a medication that wasn't treating his male needs?

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