Men and women experience depression symptoms differently and gaining a better understanding of those differences can help those with depression, researchers say. Jill Goldstein, director of research at the Connors Center for Women’s Health and Gender Biology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, says, “We have known about sex differences for years when it comes to depression, and they are absolutely essential to understanding the illness.”
Due to biological factors–such as hormones and genes that get disrupted–and emotional feelings, women are twice as likely to develop depression, Goldstein said. Here are an additional 7 ways that depression may look different in women and men.
Women are more likely to ruminate when feeling depressed: While men tend to distract themselves while feeling down, women tend to ruminate, or dwell on the negative feelings. This does not help them feel any better, in fact it makes it worse, Goldstein said.
Men with depression are more likely to abuse alcohol and other substances: Before the onset of depression, men turn to alcohol or illegal drugs to medicate themselves, which is particularly true of teenage boys. Conversely, substance use in women tends to appear after the onset of depression, or an anxiety levels increase. Goldstein adds that in teenage boys and girls, depression often looks like anger or irritability.
Women may respond differently to stressful life events: Women tend to develop depression as a response to a stressful event, like the loss of a loved one. Goldstein suggests this could be because of interactions among stress hormones, female reproductive hormones and mood-regulating neurotransmitters.
Men’s symptoms of depression may be harder for others to recognize: Men may end up with severe depression before it is even noticed, Goldstein says.
Women are more likely than men to have depression and a co-existing eating disorder: In addition to eating disorder, depression is also likely to occur at the same time as an anxiety disorder.
Men and women might respond differently to antidepressants: This is fairly new research, Goldstein said, but there is research that suggests there are differences in the way men and women metabolize antidepressants.
Men are more likely to commit suicide: Since depression is likely to go undetected in men, they are more likely to commit a successful suicide.