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Depression is not experienced in the same manner and to the same extent by all age groups and sexes. It is a well known fact that women experience depression more than men. This is true regardless of economic status, racial and ethnic background. There are many factors responsible for this difference in the experience of depression. Research has shown that hormonal, biological, life cycle and psychological factors are mainly responsible for the higher rate of depression in women as compared to men. Research has also shown that the chemical processes of the brain, that control mood and emotions, are directly affected by hormones.
The hormone secretions in women vary according to life cycles and periodical physical changes that women experience. The periodical or life cycle changes in men are far less. Many women during different parts of the menstrual cycle. Most cases of depression occur a few days before the menses. This is part of the premenstrual syndrome (PMS) resulting from the hormonal changes that typically take place around the time of ovulation and before menstruation starts. Many women also become vulnerable to depression after childbirth due to hormonal and physiological changes as well as the added responsibilities of taking care of the newborn. All of these occurring at the same time may prove to be overwhelming and cause depression in women.
, which is more serious than the baby blues that many new mothers experience, requires treatment and the new mother needs emotional support of family members to get through it. It has been observed that most of these women, who experience postpartum depression, have usually experienced episodes of depression earlier and this is what makes them vulnerable to depression in the post partum period. Of course men may also experience some emotional changes during this period of new fatherhood but it is usually some anxiety and nothing more serious.
Sexual abuse during childhood as well as adulthood put the victims at increased risk of depression. As women are more exposed to incidents of sexual abuse and rape than men they are are more likely to develop depression. Women are also more likely to be victimized and sexually harassed in the workplace and this increases their susceptibility to depression. Men and women also react to and cope with depression differently. For example men usually take to alcohol to cope with depression whereas women usually don’t do so. Men suffering from depression may also get angry, frustrated, discouraged, irritable and on the contrary start overworking themselves. Some men even get violently abusive.
Some researchers have even suggested that there is actually no difference in the vulnerability to depression among women and men but it only appears so. The reason they give for the apparent difference are that women express their feelings more readily and seek treatment whereas men are socially conditioned to hide their feelings and even deny them. Men are conditioned to ‘act out’ while under stress whereas women express their distress openly. However such arguments do not take into account the physiological differences between men and women. Also they do not consider the different sociological factors that affect men and women.
Whatever may be the reason for the difference, it is a fact that depression is a debilitating condition, that has the power to disrupt the daily lives and relationships of the those who suffer from it. Although it is treatable, most of the episodes are not diagnosed and treated, which is very unfortunate, because it affects the well being of the society at large.