Gender Differences in Mental Health

PhotoBucket Image For some time it has been known that women suffer more from depression than men do, or at the very least are more likely to be diagnosed with it. It is likely that there are a variety of contributing factors to this, not the least of which is the difference in how men and women express themselves. A new study tackles the question of which diagnoses seem to impact men versus women, and why.

The study came out of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine in Florida and appears in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology. It discusses how depression and anxiety are more commonly diagnosed in women and that men are at greater risk to be diagnosed with antisocial disorders and substance abuse.

The study looked at over 43,000 people and viewed a lifetime hsitotry. 22% of women had been diagnosed with depression during their lifetime, while 13% of men were. On the opposite end, 8% of women had a diagnosis of being alcohol dependent, where as 17% of men did. Similar differences were seen in anxiety disorders (with women at much higher rates), dependence on various drugs, and Antisocial Personality Disorder (with men at much higher rates).

Details such as these are important as it relates to the diagnosis and treatment of disorders in men and women. We do have to be careful though, as these disorders are not exclusive to one gender or the other. When seeing data like this one has to question if the reason for differences are because of the way we diagnose and treat men versus women, or it is because of the way men and women express themselves? Certainly it can be a combination of both, but how you treat someone with mental health problems is often driven by how the diagnosis came about. If you are diagnosing a man with Antisocial Personality Disorder as the result of him externalizing his emotions (which may involve hurting others) we may miss that he is actually depressed and really needs to be treated for that. The treatment for antisocial behaviors can be very different, and likely less effective than if diagnosed with depression.

As a clinician I have an obligation to clients to take all things into consideration before rendering a diagnosis. The behavior someone exhibits is not as important as the why. But both the reason for a behavior and the behavior itself comes into play. Someone may lose sight of that, and only stick with the basics of what is in front of them. In a world where therapy is often limited to the maximum sessions insurance will pay for people can get focused on behavior because you can change that. An educated client is one who can ask questions and make sure that their treatment meets their real needs, but that may also mean being more honest about what is going on than one is used to sharing.

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About Tina Weber

My name is Tina Weber and I have been working in the mental health field for over 10 years. My experience ranges from working with troubled teens and their parents to inmates in correctional facilities. I seem to have a passion for "hard to serve" populations. I am a wife and mother of three, and an adjunct instructor in psychology at St. Leo University.

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