7 Ways Depression Differs in Men and Women

Gender Differences 

Men and women can experience depression in different ways, and while they also share many common signs and symptoms, a better understanding of the differences can help people with depression, researchers say. "We've known the gender differences in depression for years, and they're absolutely essential to understanding the disease," said Jill Goldstein, research director at the Connors Center for Women's Health and Gender Biology at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. In one of the biggest gender differences related to depression, women are about twice as likely to develop the condition as men, Goldstein said. This is partly due to biological reasons, such as hormones and genes that are disrupted when brain regions develop in male and female fetuses, she said. These biological changes during fetal development lay the foundation that creates a susceptibility to mood disorders like depression, she said. Additionally, women tend to be more attuned to and better at describing their feelings when they are depressed, Goldstein said. Men may not recognize their symptoms as depression and may deny or hide their dissatisfaction, so the illness in men may be overlooked until it becomes more severe. Here are seven reasons depression can look different in men and women. 

Women are more likely to brood when they are feeling depressed

Dwelling and rehashing negative feelings, known as rumination, is more common in women with depression than in men with the condition. This behavior can include negative self-talk, crying for no apparent reason, and blaming yourself. Rumination doesn't help people and actually makes them feel worse, Goldstein said. Unlike women, men tend to distract themselves when they're feeling down, which helps alleviate depression. 

Men with depression are more likely to abuse alcohol and other substances. 

Men may drink heavily or turn to illicit drugs to treat themselves before the onset of depression, and this is especially true in teenagers, Goldstein said. In women, substance abuse typically occurs after depression begins or when anxiety levels rise, she said. Depressed men may also try to hide their sadness by turning to other pursuits, such as watching TV, exercising, and excessive work, or engaging in risky behaviors, such as gambling, smoking, unsafe sex, or reckless driving. Depression is also more likely to show up as anger and irritability in men and teens, Goldstein said. Women can react differently to stressful life events. 

Women may be more likely to become depressed in response to a stressful event. 

Some evidence suggests that when women experience stressful situations, such as a death in the family, a difficult relationship, or losing a job, tend to respond in ways that prolong their feelings of stress more than men do. This could be due to interactions between stress hormones, female reproductive hormones, and mood-regulating neurotransmitters, Goldstein said. 

Depressive symptoms in men can be harder to spot for others.

Although women are more affected by depression and are more prone to it due to their biology, the condition is more often overlooked in men, Goldstein told Live Science. Health professionals and even family members may not notice depressive symptoms in men, so they can end up with major depression before it's recognized, she explained. 

Women are more likely than men to have depression and an eating disorder at the same time. 

Depression and eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia often go hand in hand. Depression in women is also much more likely to coexist with an anxiety disorder, such as B. panic disorder or obsessive-compulsive disorder. 

Men and women may respond differently to antidepressants

Women may be more likely to become depressed in response to a stressful event. Some evidence suggests that when women experience stressful situations, such as a death in the family, a difficult relationship, or losing a job, tend to respond in ways that prolong their feelings of stress more than men do. This could be due to interactions between stress hormones, female reproductive hormones, and mood-regulating neurotransmitters, Goldstein said. 

Men commit suicide more often. 

Because depression symptoms in men can last longer without being diagnosed or treated, the condition can evolve into a more devastating mental health problem. Men who suffer from depression are also more likely than women to succeed in attempting suicide.