The Gender Bender: How Depression Affects the Sexes

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Depression is a chronic mental health illness which is characterized by negative feelings, a prolonged sense of sadness, and a general loss of interest in everyday activities. Many attendant conditions plague depressed individuals such as loss of sleep, suicidal thoughts and tendencies, irritability, fatigue, worsening of general health, poor performance at work, and failing interpersonal relationships, et al.

The multi-pronged causes of depression include a combination of factors, namely a person’s genetic predisposition to depression, environmental elements, physiological factors, and biological components. Viewed in perspective, depression is a serious condition that can prematurely end a person’s life.

According to the Mayo Clinic, approximately ‘twice as many women as men experience depression…’, And this is largely due to several factors related to hormonal changes, biological factors, personal life conditions, and inherited characteristics. When young women go through puberty, bodily chemistry changes, and this puts some females at increased risk of developing depressive disorders.

Mood swings alone do not characterize depression, however the attendant experiences such as pressure at school, competitive pressure in sports, interpersonal relationship challenges, identity and sexuality issues can exacerbate depressive trends. Females go through puberty before males, so it stands to reason that the gender gap certainly continues this depressive trend.

PMS is yet another element that can adversely affect a small percentage of women. While most women cope with premenstrual syndrome fairly well, a small number of women agonize through PMS symptoms. This can result in premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) which is a form of depression. While the connection between PMS and depression is spurious at best, there is a growing consensus that hormonal changes (progesterone and estrogen) can disrupt brain chemistry and serotonin, thereby exacerbating depression.

Factors Which Can Contribute to Elevated Levels of Depression in Females

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Life circumstances and cultural differences can worsen depression and stress in females. For example, many women today now work outside the home, but are still tasked with home-based responsibilities. This places undue stress on women in the form of work overload. Whether it’sminors, or elderly relatives in need of care, women tend to be the ones responsible. Women continue to face stress in the workplace, despite moves towards greater gender equality. Access to help and resources are somewhat limited for women in many parts of the world. This uncertainty can contribute towards depression.

There is an issue which is unique to women, in the form of abuse. More women than men areabused, since men are the dominant abusers. This physical, emotional and sexual abuse which takes place can result in higher incidences of depression later in life. Since men are abused far less than women, this particular life circumstance can prove telling. A study from 2010 found that the global annual prevalence of depression in women was 5.5%, compared to men at 3.2%. This indicates 1.7 X greater incidence of depression occurrence in women than in men.

There are other reasons why women are more prone to higher levels of stress and depression than men, notably the fact that women tend to live longer than men. This means that they are more likely to be left alone without the partners and support structures. This can increase stress and depression. Perhaps the single biggest reason why more women are diagnosed with depression is because women tend to go to doctors far more regularly than men. Even if men are depressed, it’s likely that they will go undiagnosed, while women don’t.

Effective Treatment Options for Depression

Source: BrainsWay TMS for Depression

SSRIs, SNRIs, therapy, surgical and nonsurgical treatment options are readily available for depression. The first line of defense for depression is a bifurcated approach comprising medication and therapy. Other options such as electroconvulsive therapy, and transcranial magnetic stimulation are increasingly used. Deep TMS™ for the treatment of depression is particularly effective and is fully FDA cleared. This treatment regimen is generally well tolerated by both men and women, with no anesthesia, no hospital stays, no incisions, and no systemic side effects.

Deep TMS involves sitting comfortably in a chair wearing a patented and secured snuggly “H-Coil” helmet that uses electromagnetic fields which are sent to regulate the activity of the relevant structures across relatively wider areas of the brain. The magnetic coil stimulates the neurons deep within the brain, combating the symptoms of depression noninvasively. Typically, Deep TMS sessions take place five days a week, for 20 minutes – 40 minutes at a time on an outpatient procedure basis. A large number of patients respond favorably to Deep TMS treatments with many reporting significant improvements in mood.

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