Depression can affect anyone — it does not discriminate between genders, as both men and women can experience this condition. However, statistics show that depression is more common among females. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that women are twice as likely to be diagnosed with depression than men.1
Why Are Women More Prone to Depression Than Men?
In an article in LiveScience, Jill Goldstein,2 director of research at the Connors Center for Women's Health and Gender Biology at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, says that the biological makeup of women is the primary factor why they are at a higher risk of depression. For example, hormones and genes are disrupted during brain development in the womb, and because of these biological changes during fetal development, women become predisposed to mood disorders.
Goldstein adds that women are also more tuned into their emotions — they can describe or pinpoint when they are depressed. On the other hand, men sometimes do not recognize their symptoms as depression. They usually tend to hide or deny their feelings until the disorder is overlooked and it becomes more severe.
"We have known about sex differences for years when it comes to depression, and they are absolutely essential to understanding the illness," Goldstein says.3
Aside from these biological differences, personal life circumstances, negative experiences and inherited traits are associated with a higher risk of depression in women.4 Being more emotionally involved in relationships and having to juggle family and job responsibilities (especially in working mothers) are also risk factors of depression in women.5
Differentiating the Symptoms of Depression in Men Versus Women
Men and women may share the hallmark symptoms of depression. These include a depressed mood, loss of interest in activities and hobbies, appetite changes and sleep disturbances, poor concentration and harboring feelings of guilt. Nevertheless, there are key differences between the two genders:6,7
• Women are more physically expressive of their emotions, such as crying, while men are more rigid, expressing less emotion. Females are also more likely to ruminate — dwelling on negative feelings — when they are depressed. However, men are more prone to suffer episodes of intense and inappropriate anger. Defined as “anger attacks,” these are about three times higher in men than in women.
• Men may turn to substance abuse when they are depressed. They become prone to excessive alcohol intake or illegal drugs. They may also find other outlets to mask their depression, such as spending too much time at work or in front of the TV, or even gambling.
• Women may develop a co-existing eating disorder, such as bulimia or anorexia, when they are depressed. Panic disorder, anxiety and obsessive compulsive behavior may also occur in women.
• Men have a higher chance of committing suicide than women. This is because their illness typically takes a long time before being diagnosed or treated, leading them to spiral into a more devastating mental state. Men who attempt suicide are also more successful at it than women.
Whatever Their Gender, Someone With Depression Needs Help
Regardless of whether you’re a man or a woman, you should seek help if you feel as if you’re struggling with depression. If someone you know is manifesting any of these symptoms, talk to them or guide them so that they may be able to overcome this alarming disorder.