Depression does not discriminate based on gender, although it may be more recognizable in the way women express it over men. The gender differences when it comes to depression are vital to understanding how to help a loved one receive proper diagnosis and treatment. Often, men go undiagnosed with the disorder and end up misunderstood by those around them as to what they are truly experiencing. Stigma in society plays a huge role in hindering a man’s ability to seek proper treatment as men are expected to be less emotionally expressive than women. Statistically speaking, women are three times more likely to attempt suicide, whereas men are two to four more times likely to die by suicide. This shows that gender differences in mental health need proper acknowledgment to provide the best care and outcomes possible for each individual that battles the forces of depression. By recognizing and educating ourselves on the differences in how each gender is likely to express an episode of depression, we can better identify warning signs that may lead to life-saving resources regardless of gender.
We have been working to research and educate about depression and how to identify it in each individual as everyone’s experience is different. Through our research we have come to find that those who do not identify as cisgender female or male are under-represented in depression and its research. Although these very important groups have not yet been studied in-depth when it relates to depression and one’s experience we hope to address that as soon as studies begin to provide a clearer understanding. The core symptoms of depression can be identified in any individual regardless of gender identification and it is important to start with that when trying to find out more information to help yourself or a loved one. We hope that by highlighting the differences between males and females first, we can begin to dive deeper into exploring the differences between all gender identifications. Although this article is tailored towards only two genders, it is still vital information for all to understand in order to recognize that depression reveals itself differently between all persons.
What is depression?
Depression is a mood disorder that 16.2 million adults experience annually. Source Depression can manifest as a single episode, or it can be a reoccurring health problem that involves more than just feelings of sadness. This disorder affects sleep, mood, perception, eating habits, and can lead to suicidality. Not only are symptoms exhibited through emotional or mental states but physical as well as leading to aches and pains within the body, fatigue, weight gain or loss, and memory, as well as concentration issues. To be diagnosed with this condition, an individual must experience the qualifying symptoms for two weeks or more. Signs, as listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5th Edition used by professionals as a tool for diagnosis, are disruption of sleep and eating, lack of energy or concentration, problems with self-image, and suicidal thoughts. Although it is normal for people to experience bouts of sadness throughout their lifetime, depression is different as it can be overwhelming and life-threatening.
General Signs of Depression
The indicators of depression and its symptoms differ from person to person. No case of depression is the same as the next person, although there is a mixture of symptoms that may be present in all cases as a signal that depression is occurring. Regardless of gender, the following symptoms may be present as a warning sign that someone is battling with depression:
- Low mood
- Lack of motivation
- Loss of pleasure in activities an individual once found enjoyable
- Appetite changes
- Changes in sleep or disturbances in sleep
- Feelings of guilt or hopelessness
- Issues with concentration
If you or a loved one appears to exhibit these symptoms, it can be a critical indicator that there is an underlying mental health issue that needs attention. Although there are differences between the two genders in how depression is expressed, both tend to battle similar underlying symptoms.
Depression in Women
Women are more likely than men to develop depression, and women’s symptoms are usually easier to recognize as depression as opposed to men. One in four women is expected to have at least one episode of major depression in their lifetime. Hormones have been theorized to be a possible explanation for why women are more likely to experience depression than men, not to be confused with what was once believed to be hysteria. Hormonal changes are only one explanation out of many different combined factors since they tend to affect a person’s mood. Since women experience frequent hormonal changes compared to men, it has been mentioned that this may be a risk factor for developing the disorder. As women typically tend to be more emotionally expressive, depression is easier to recognize. Women are more likely to express depression by:
- Feelings of guilt
- Increased appetite
- Increased sleep
- Weight gain
- Comorbid eating disorders
Depression in Men
Over 6 million men are estimated to experience depression annually. Source Depression, once thought of as a “women’s” disorder, has been highly stigmatized amongst the male population as men are expected to be stronger than women and feel the pressure to maintain a particular image to society. This stigmatization has led to many men not receiving the proper understanding or diagnosis to receive adequate treatment. There are some critical differences between the genders in how they display the symptoms of the disorder, which has led to a lot of misunderstanding. In addition to the symptoms outlined in The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5th Edition, men over women, are more likely to express depression through:
- Talking about physical symptoms over emotional
- Reckless behavior
- Substance abuse
Putting It All Together
Regardless of gender, depression is a genuine and debilitating disorder that can occur in anyone. Men are less likely to seek treatment for their symptoms and also less likely to understand that depression is what they are experiencing. Instead of appearing sad as women are more likely to do, men turn to reckless and dangerous behaviors and exhibit irritability that often goes unnoticed as a mental health problem. Doctors also tend to miss the signs in men leading to them going undiagnosed and untreated as there needs to be further emphasis on the differences due to gender. By understanding that a woman might exhibit depression differently than a man, we can begin to identify the warning signs easier and offer the proper resources for everyone to receive the help they need to overcome depression. One needs to seek the medical care they may need to relieve these symptoms and live their life to the fullest. Regardless of your gender, depression is a critical disorder that requires medical attention, and there are so many people out there who will support you on your journey to wellness!
If you are struggling with depression and looking for resources to manage the symptoms, click here to find out what you can do!
About Mattias Sommers
Mattias Sommers is a Mental Health Advocate who’s a strong supporter of the use of cannabis and CBD to treat mental health. Leading with empathy and understanding, Mattias hopes to educate others to help those struggling to overcome hardships live a more fulfilling life. Mattias’ self-care routine includes art, poetry, photography, and caring for her dog Josie.
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