How Women and Men Deal with Major Depressive Disorder

More than 14.8 million Americans have major depressive disorder (MDD). The disorder can affect anyone, however more females are diagnosed with MDD than males. The reasons for this difference are not well understood.

What Causes MDD in Women and Men?

Depression rates among women are higher than with men. Also, MDD manifests differently in men and women. This could be the result of biological/hormonal differences, genes, and a number of other factors.

The following infographic provides a look at some of these factors.

Major Depressive Disorder in Women vs. Men

FactorsWomenMen
Biological/HormonalGreater risk-related hormonal changes including pre-menses, pregnancy, postpartum, and menopause. Three times greater risk of seasonal affective disorder.Lower risk, fewer (major) hormonal changes.
Age of Onset14-18 years oldMid 20s
Genes42% hereditary factors29% hereditary factors
SexMore likely to seek help. Majority of antidepressants prescriptions are for women. More than half of women feel depression a normal part of life.Less likely to be recognized as depression. Focus is more on physical symptoms. May be diagnosed with a different disorder. Many men see depression as a sign of weakness.
Rate and RecurrenceRate: 8.2%
Recurrence: equal
Rate: 4.8%
Recurrence: equal
SuicideHigher rate of suicide attempts (but most are unsuccessful)Four times as likely to die from suicide
Additional DisordersMigraines, thyroid disease, PMS, eating disorders, anxiety Substance abuse, intermittent explosive disorder

*National Institute of Mental Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, World Health Organization

How Women Handle Depression

Not only are women more likely to suffer from MDD, but they also handle the condition differently.

In general, women tend to be more accepting of MDD. They view it as just one more thing that they have to handle or manage. Because of this, they typically are more open to talking about what’s going on with them and looking for ways to get help.

Here are some of the most common symptoms associated with women and MDD:

  • sadness, worthlessness, withdrawal
  • low self-esteem
  • blaming themselves
  • avoiding conflicts
  • sluggishness
  • nervousness
  • self-medication with food

Women generally find it easier to talk about their issues and seek help and treatment.

How Men Handle Depression

Men often think they need to be stronger and more dominant than women. Because of this, men tend to try to hide or ignore their symptoms. Men are also less likely to seek treatment than women.

Here are some of the most common symptoms associated with men and MDD:

  • anger, irritability, inflated ego
  • push blame onto others
  • create conflict
  • restlessness and agitation
  • self-medication with alcohol, drugs, sex, and reckless behavior
  • hide feelings from themselves and others

Not all differences in depression between women and men can be easily explained. However, MDD isn’t something that women or men need to manage on their own. Treatment, including medication and psychotherapy, are available