Gender a Factor for Mental Disorders

There are many differences between men and women, including how they are affected by mental illness. A recent study published by the American Psychological Association (APA) reports for women – anxiety and depression are a greater risk and for men – substance abuse and anti social behavior are the norm. The study underlines the need for gender-specific prevention and treatment options.

Women and Men Tend to Have Different Mental Health Issues

Researchers found that women who suffer from anxiety tend to internalize their emotions, leading to withdrawal and depression. Men handle anxiety differently, externalizing their emotions and exhibiting aggressive and impulsive behaviors. Results of the study led researchers to conclude that gender-based tendencies to either internalize or externalize negative emotions account for the differences in prevalent mental disorders between men and women.

The researchers noted that women suffer from depression more often than men do because they ruminate more about their problems, getting caught up in repetitive negative thoughts and emotions instead of working on active problem solving. Women who are affected by depression should be encouraged to focus on coping skills that will help them overcome negative rumination.

Past research has found that women who are being treated for a mental health disorder report more stressful life events than men do in the period leading up to the onset of the disorder. This implies that women may be subject to more stress, contributing to their habit of internalizing their anxiety.
The study also suggested that men who are in treatment for impulsive behaviors, including drug and alcohol abuse, should focus on channeling aggressive tendencies into non-destructive behavior.

Details from the study were published online by the APA in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology. The study was based on data collected from 43,000 people who participated in a survey conducted by the U.S. National Institutes of Health. Participants in the survey, who represented a cross-section of American society, answered questions about lifetime mental health and their mental health during the previous 12 months. The study’s authors include researchers from several major U.S. universities.

When asked about depression, about 23% of women reported that they had suffered from it at some point in their life compared to about 13% of men. About 12% of women reported having a phobia about a specific object of situation, a condition only reported by 6% of men. On the other hand, about 17% of men reported having a problem with alcohol dependence compared to 8% of women.

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– Valerie M. Kading, DNP, MBA, MSN, PMHNP-BC, Chief Executive Officer
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