Gender Differences in Depression

The "blues", "feeling low", "out of sorts", these examples describe forms of depression.  Some instances are more difficult than others.  Everyone experiences these feelings, it's human nature.  However, the way men handle depression can differ from women.

According to Dale Archer, MD, psychiatrist with the Institute for Neuropsychiatry, women tend to express their emotions outwardly more than men.  He said men usually keep their feelings inside in an effort to mask them.  "It goes back to men thinking they have to be the 'strong ones' and not show a weakness," Dr. Archer said.  "Some men find it hard to admit they have a difficult time dealing with an issue."

In this era of job cutbacks, a declining economy, and the stress of 9/11, Americans are feeling the effects of stress.  When monumental life changes occur, such as the death of a loved one, or losing a job, it is only natural to be in a low emotional state.  To avoid these feelings would be to ignore the situation.  Dealing with them is where the difference lies in men and women.

Even small, day-to-day aggravations show a difference in how they are handled by men and women.  "Women tend to let it get to them more than men," Dr. Archer said.  "A disagreement with a co-worker, a fight with a family member, a sick child, these will send a woman's stress level higher than a man's.  Men's hot buttons tend to be competition in the workplace, dealing with heavy traffic or slow service in a store."  Women will usually keep quiet during the incident, then let off steam later.  On the other hand, men often erupt for a moment, get it out, and then go on with their day.

According to experts, women are more likely to become clinically depressed.  A term used to describe a lowered state of emotion lasting for several weeks.  Loss of appetite, feelings of inadequacy and even thoughts of suicide accompany clinical depression.  As many as 10 to 20 percent of women will experience depression, while only eight to 10 percent of men will be affected.  Other facts include:

  • Women are more likely to have eating disorders.
  • During a bout with depression, women are more likely to lose sleep and eat more than men.
  • Men are more likely to use alcohol to cope with depression.
  • Bi-polar disorder is equally prevalent in both men and women. However, the course of the disorder is different. Women are more apt to have more rapid cycling episodes, falling into depression and then rising quickly to the manic-phase of the disease.
  • Women are more likely to have phobias and panic disorders.

Depression is a serious disorder that affects the lives of thousands.  It affects nearly 10 percent of the population, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.  Even though it is so common, only 10 percent of the cases receive clinical attention.  Once a person has a single episode of depression, it is more likely to occur again.

"Knowing the differences in how men and women deal with depression can be helpful if someone you love is going through this.  Talking it out is one of the best ways to help them.  If they can express their feelings to a trusted family member or professional, it can relieve the burden of carrying it alone," explained Dr. Archer.