Depression can happen to anybody including both men and women. Yet there can be some significant differences in how depression is experienced by the sexes. One notable gender difference can be found in the statistics of who gets diagnosed with depression. The National Institute of Mental Health reports that Major Depressive Disorder is more prevalent in women than in men. In fact, women are said to be twice as likely as men to experience depression. But are women really more depressed than men or can this statistic be explained by the fact that more women seek treatment than men do for their depression? In addition to differences in the prevalence of depression among men and women there are also differences to be noted as far as symptoms experienced and coping styles. So when we talk about male and female depression are we talking about apples and oranges or are there more similarities than differences? Can a man, for example, truly understand what his female spouse is going through when she says she is depressed? And likewise, can women fully empathize with what a man feels when he is diagnosed with the same thing?
In order to gain some understanding of these gender differences in how men and women experience depression, I have enlisted the aid of both male and female mental health writers to provide their take on this somewhat controversial issue. My hope is that we will gain a better perspective and empathy for what the opposite sex goes through in coping with depression.
• Our first comment comes from ShrinkRapRoy who is a psychiatrist and blogger for Shrink Rap, a blog written by psychiatrists for psychiatrists. Their blog happens to be quite popular among patients as well.
Here's my take on it, Merely Me. Major Depression is pretty much the same for men and women. The diagnostic criteria are the same for each gender. However, risk factors may be different (think postpartum and post-retirement). Also, the symptoms themselves may be experienced differently in men and women based more on social factors than biology. Loss of sex drive may bother more men than women, for example. Women may be more concerned about weight gain than men, so they may be less tolerant of a medication's weight-related side effects.
One of the differences I see as a psychiatrist is that women seem to be more likely to come in asking for help with depression, whereas men seem less likely to ask for help (they don't like to stop at the gas station to ask for directions, either). Men are more likely than women to seek help for depression because someone (friend, spouse, family, boss) pushed them to do so.
Thank you, ShrinkRapRoy. It does seem that more women come to our site than men. Or at least the women are more vocal about their depression. It is my opinion that many more men have depression than the statistics show. I think that what you say here validates my hypothesis that perhaps more women are being diagnosed because they are the ones coming in to see a doctor for help. One of the more popular requests on MyDepressionConnection comes from the wives and girlfriends asking how to get their depressed male partner to seek treatment.