The differences between men and women may be obvious on the outside, but it’s the inner workings of each that have medical researchers scrambling for answers, especially when it comes to mental health. The fact is that women are twice as likely to suffer from anxiety and depression than men, and researchers believe that a combination of issues, from hormones to environment, may be at the root of the disparity.
At Progressive Women’s Health, our team, which is headed up by Dr. Asia Mohsin, has long understood that the lines of distinction between men and women run deep, especially when it comes to gender-specific health issues. And when it comes to mental health, we want women in the Friendswood, Texas, area to be aware of some of the potential pitfalls.
Here’s a look at why women are more prone to anxiety and depression and what you can do about it.
Anxiety and depression are not one and the same
Before we dive into why women are more prone to two of the more common mental conditions — anxiety and depression — we want to make clear that the two are not the same thing. While these mood disorders often get lumped together, anxiety and depression are two entirely separate illnesses that can stand alone or co-occur, but they should not be considered as one and the same.
Depression affects approximately 15 million people in the United States, 70% of whom are women. The hallmarks of depression are:
- Overwhelming sadness or hopelessness
- Loss of energy
- Sleep issues
- Weight loss or weight gain
- Cognitive difficulties (trouble concentrating, for example)
- Suicidal thoughts
There are also many forms of depression, such as major depressive disorder, seasonal affective disorder, and postpartum depression.
When it comes to anxiety, everyone feels worried or stressed from time to time. But anxiety disorders take this to a different level and typically lead to the following symptoms:
- Excessive nervousness or agitation
- Uncontrollable fear
- Loss of interest
- Rapid heart rate and/or breathing
- Trouble sleeping
- Gastrointestinal issues
Anxiety can be a low-grade, constant companion, or it can come on in the form of panic attacks.
Are hormones the key?
It’s no mystery that one of the biggest differences between men and women are their hormones. Much of what makes a man a man stems from testosterone, and women are governed in some obvious, and not-so-obvious, ways by estrogen. These hormones are what create the outward physical differences, but they also have a surprising effect on mental and emotional health.
So when researchers were first trying to figure out why women are more prone to depression and anxiety, they naturally looked to hormones. For starters, women experience far greater fluctuations in hormone levels throughout their lives, and many researchers believe that these changes can have an effect on the brain’s wiring. This would explain the mood swings that accompany PMS or why postpartum depression develops.
But the mystery is far from solved. Some researchers posit that men and women are equally prone to depression and anxiety, but women are more likely to report it. As well, men and women may react differently to these mood disorders, with men feeling as if they have to mask the conditions. Additionally, women are more vulnerable to situations that precipitate anxiety or depression, such as abuse, violence, or economic insecurity.
The bottom line is that there’s no clear reason why women are more susceptible to anxiety and depression, but the answer likely lies in a combination of factors, including:
- Societal and cultural pressures
The good news is that we have effective ways of helping you control your depression or anxiety.
Taking back control
If you suffer from anxiety or depression, we urge you to talk to us about it. We can help stop the vicious cycle that these mental disorders place you in by getting you started on a treatment plan that may include medications, counseling, and some lifestyle changes.
All too often, women are afraid to show weakness and admit to having a problem, but we feel it’s a show of strength when you identify your issue and get help.
If you’re struggling with anxiety or depression, please don’t hesitate to give us a call. Or you can use the online scheduling tool on this website to set up an appointment.