It’s no news that both men and women suffer from mental illnesses. However, differences lie in how their symptoms manifest and how they cope. In fact, the disparity between male and female behavior can lead to tragic results for those with depression.
Mental health workers aren’t the only people who benefit from knowing, though. Anyone who loves someone struggling with depression should know how to recognize the signs of worsening symptoms so they can help. By taking a closer look at how this condition manifests in men and women, we can save lives.
1. Women identify feelings more readily.
Men typically avoid discussing their feelings. Part of this results from differences in friendships between genders. While women typically bond over shared emotions, men often build relationships by reciprocating favors or working together on projects.
As a result, women more often seek help for depression. Men, on the other hand, typically end up in inpatient care. This suggests guys avoid seeking help they reach critical stages. Additionally, doctors prescribe psychiatric medications to women more often, which may explain why fewer women end up in inpatient care.
2. Women’s depression manifests as sadness; men’s manifests as anger.
Depressed women typically express feelings of sadness, worthlessness, and hopelessness. Men, conversely, often hide their real emotions behind anger, irritability, and aggression. Furthermore, men self-medicate more often with booze or drugs and may engage in risky behaviors like driving recklessly.
Nevertheless, both genders benefit from activities that put them in touch with their feelings. Spending 10 minutes each evening writing in a journal allows people to record their emotions and creates a starting point when going to therapy. Learning to reframe thoughts in positive ways through meditation can help as well.
3. Women attempt suicide more often, but men typically succeed.
Even though women share their suicidal thoughts more readily and attempt the act more often, men are at least three times more likely to succeed. Typically, men choose more violent means — using a firearm, for example — than women. Conversely, women tend to use methods such as overdosing, which leaves more possibility and time for someone to find them and get help.
As a society, encouraging men to share their feelings could cut suicide rates significantly. Since men often suffer in silence, too many take the final solution without seeking help first.
4. Men and women react to medications differently.
Finally, multiple studies suggest women respond more positively to SSRI antidepressants than men. Several factors influence the difference.
On average, women have greater levels of body fat than men. Medication builds up in fat cells, meaning women can reach toxic levels sooner than men. This results in greater side effect risks. Additionally, women possess fewer binding proteins in their blood, meaning certain drug combinations can build up in their bloodstream. Even though women respond more positively to antidepressants, doctors should exercise care in prescribing them.
Additionally, men may feel uncomfortable taking psychotropic medications, because they believe that doing so somehow makes them less masculine. Psychiatrists explain to male patients that, just as they wouldn’t fail to take a nitroglycerin tablet if a heart attack loomed, psychiatric medications treat a chemical imbalance in the brain. There is no more shame in taking Prozac than there is in taking an aspirin for a headache.
Because of the differences in how men and women show depression and respond to required treatment, recognizing these differences can improve, and even save, lives. Both mental health professionals and those who suspect that someone they love suffers from depression benefit from knowing these differences.