How Depression Affects Men and Women Differently

Apr 9, 2021

Depression is more than just sadness. One common misconception is that depression is the same as sadness or grief — it’s not.

If you’re wondering “How does depression affect men and women differently?” read further.

This article will cover what depression is, the symptoms it presents, and how it affects men and women in different ways.

What Is Depression?

Depression, also known as major depressive disorder, is a common illness that negatively affects your emotions, cognitive ability, and actions. It can promote feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or worthlessness.

This disorder is different than sadness or grief. While these are similar experiences, sadness and grief are usually presented in waves and do not often include feelings of self-loathing or an inability to cope healthily.

In the case of major depressive disorder, these feelings and symptoms can seem overwhelming.

What Are the Common Symptoms of Depression?

Symptoms of depression range from mild to severe and must last for at least 2 weeks for a diagnosis.

According to the American Psychiatric Association, these symptoms include:

  • Low moods or feeling sad
  • A loss of interest in activities once enjoyed
  • Intense fatigue
  • Pessimism
  • Increase or loss of appetite
  • Feeling guilty, hopeless, or worthless
  • Difficulty in concentrating or making decisions
  • Restlessness
  • Thoughts of death or suicidal thoughts

Symptoms of depression can be frightening for those experiencing them, but seeking help will lead to better methods of living with depression.

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, keep track of how and when you feel them and schedule an appointment with your doctor.

What Causes Depression?

There is no one cause of depression and depression can affect anyone, anywhere. 

However, there are different factors that can contribute to a diagnosis of depression. These include genetics, biochemistry, personality, and environmental surroundings.

Genetics

In major depressive disorder, genetics can contribute to those affected by it. While genetics are still being researched in relation to depression, those who have depression may have inherited it from their genes.

In some cases, the heritability of depression can range from 40% to 50%, depending on the genes in the family.

Genetics can claim some causes of depression, while others are caused by extra factors.

Biochemistry

Brain biochemistry has been found to have a significant effect on depressive disorders. Those with a major depressive disorder usually have an irregular balance of neurotransmitters.

Neurotransmitters are chemicals that travel throughout your brain, carrying signals from one place to another.

When these signals aren’t correctly being delivered, issues like depression can emerge.

Personality

Individuals with certain personality traits can be more likely to have depression. 

These personality traits can include moodiness, instability, anxiety, excitement, and organization or lack thereof. These contribute to a person’s everyday life and how they respond to situations.

Environment

Factors that can contribute to depression pertaining to the environment can include stress, relationship issues, childhood trauma, and loss.

Harmful surroundings that affect an individual can directly contribute to depression. 

The Effects of Depression on the Brain

As mentioned earlier, neurotransmitters that fail to signal correctly will contribute to major depressive disorder.

However, there are other effects that depression has on the brain, including brain tissue loss and shrinkage. Individuals with severe depressive disorders have stress put on their hippocampus, resulting in a harmful response to hormones.

Physically, a brain dealing with depression is found to shrink in certain areas such as the thalamus, insula, and caudate nucleus. 

As a result of shrinkage, memory and cognitive issues are affected as well as sleep and appetite problems.

How Depression is Different Between Men and Women

Depression presents itself differently in men and women due to hormones and genes. This differs in fetal development, as cognitive factors can get disrupted in the process.

In addition, men and women respond to depression differently. Women are known to be more aware of their emotions and can relay their feelings more directly, whereas men are less likely to respond to their negative emotions, due to possible deniability.

There are several ways that men and women are different in response to their depression.

Women and Depression

Women are nearly twice as likely as women to be diagnosed with depression. This is mostly do to biological, hormonal, and social factors that differ in women from men.

Women face unique types of depression that men don’t experience:

  • Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) — PMDD is a more severe, less common form of PMS. PMDD causes intense moodiness and irritability the weeks leading up to menstruation. It is often a disabling condition with symptoms that include anger, depression, suicidal thoughts, appetite changes, breast tenderness, bloating, joint pain, and muscle pain.
  • Perinatal Depression — Pregnancy causes hormonal fluctuations, and can often cause mood swings, morning sickness, and weight gain. In addition to this, many new moms experience “baby blues” within the first couple weeks of having a baby. These feelings include unhappiness, exhaustion, and worry.
  • Perimenopausal Depression — This term describes the transition into menopause. It’s completely normal, but can be challenging. Perimenopausal Depression may causes irregular periods, insomnia, hot flashes, and mood swings.

Gender roles can also play a factor in depression. In western society,

Men and Depression

With depression in men, it can be harder to recognize. Depression can be overlooked as a temporary mood or in the case of men potentially hiding their emotions.

Depression in men is also likely to affect their behaviors. These changes in behavior may lead to increased abuse of alcohol and other substances, particularly in teen years. This can lead to escapism, dedicating much time to things such as sports, TV, gaming, exercising, gambling, or smoking.

Gender Roles

Gender roles can also play a factor in depression.

In western society, women typically express their feelings more openly. This allows them to talk freely about how they feel with a friend or a partner. They’re also more likely to seek help than men.

Men in western society are often pressured to take endure mental illnesses like depression alone. Men are much less likely to express themselves and ask for help. The result of this makes many men suppress their emotions and have mental breaks of anger or sadness. Holding in their emotions, often with shame, leads more men to commit suicide than women.

Getting the Right Treatment for You

When it comes to depression, educating yourself on how it presents itself in men and women, as well as knowing the symptoms and effects of depression, will better prepare you for situations regarding your loved ones or even yourself.

The effects of depression on the brain can seem minimal or extreme, depending on the individual. Getting the best treatment for depression can remedy the effects significantly and can help level one’s emotions and brain activity.

If you’re struggling with symptoms of depression, see your doctor or call a hotline. Help is always available and there are always resources for people with depression.

If you enjoyed this article and would like to learn more about depression, take a look at our article on the relationship between stress and depression.

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