Gender Roles and Depression
Nearly 20 percent of the American population suffers from depression, a debilitating disorder that causes a person to experience intense feelings of sadness and hopelessness (1). While depression is a common occurrence, it manifests itself differently in men and women.
Understanding how gender roles can affect depression symptoms may help loved ones recognize depression and guide their loved one toward professional help.
Women and Depression
Women are twice as likely to be diagnosed with depression as men are, according to Mayo Clinic (2). There are some hormonal differences that could potentially indicate the reasons for higher depression rates. For example, a condition called premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) is associated with menstruation-related hormonal changes that contribute to depression.
Additionally, pregnancy can cause mood-affecting hormonal changes that affect a woman during and after her pregnancy. One example is postpartum depression, where a woman experiences serious and long-lasting feelings of depression. An estimated 10 to 15 percent of new mothers have postpartum depression.
A woman is also more likely to experience depression when she goes through early menopause or post-menopause. Changing hormone levels can result in greater incidents of depression. This is true for decreasing estrogen levels in menopause.
Hormone changes aren’t the only reason why a woman could experience depression. Additional factors such as anxiety, an eating disorder, a history of abuse and/or drug or alcohol dependency can also contribute to depression in women (2).
Men and Depression
Although women are more commonly diagnosed with depression, it’s possible that just as many men suffer from depression, yet do not seek help. Men also tend to experience symptoms that are different from a woman’s depression symptoms (3). Examples include:
- Engaging in risky/reckless behavior
- Engaging in substance abuse
- Escapist behavior, such as focusing on work or another activity to avoid their emotions
- Practicing controlling or abusive behaviors
While these behaviors can be manifestations of depression in men, a man’s traditional gender role may mean people are less likely to identify the symptoms as depression.
Gender and Depression Research
A study published in the journal PLOS ONE found that even when men and women display the same depression symptoms, people are less likely to say the man is depressed (4). Part of this difference could be due to the fact that woman are more likely than men to experience depression. However, it is important to recognize the incidence of depression in men so they can seek medical help.
Regardless of gender, it’s important to recognize the symptoms of depression in men and women. These can include:
- Losing interest in things they once enjoyed
- Feeling fatigued all the time
- Experiencing aches and pains of an unknown origin
- Experiencing changes in appetite that leads to weight loss/gain
- Having difficulty remembering and/or concentrating
- Experiencing feelings of sadness, hopelessness or overwhelming guilt
For men and women, depression can affect their ability to function in daily life and can even lead to thoughts of self-harm and suicide. Those who suffer from depression are robbed of the happier and healthier life they could be living.
Depression is a highly treatable condition and neither men nor women should be afraid to seek help. Medical intervention can help a person free themselves from sad, guilty and/or hopeless thoughts.