How Depression Symptoms In Women Are Different From Those In Men

Updated January 27, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

In many cases, mental health can be comparable to physical health. Most people have common physical health traits and conditions, but factors such as age or biological sex can change how they manifest. Understanding how symptoms of depression in women are different from symptoms of depression in men can save lives.

To illustrate how certain medical conditions affect men and women differently, let’s look at heart attacks:

Depression Can Be Treated

Men and women can both suffer from heart attacks. The basic condition is the same, but men and women can experience different symptoms. Further, society has historically been more familiar with heart attack symptoms for men than those for women. This has placed women at a disadvantage when seeking treatment, though attitudes and mental frameworks have started to change in recent years.

Depression is similar. Women and men can have similar mental, physical, and emotional effects of depression, but the symptoms can be different.  There are also mental health conditions related to depression that only impact women, or that impact women more often.

Common Symptoms Of Depression

Feelings of sadness, especially during hard times in life, are normal. Those living with depression face more than just sadness, though. Depression refers to a diagnosable and treatable mental health condition when persistent negative feelings are severe and prolonged. Further, there are many symptoms that can be associated with depression.

Symptoms of depression in women are largely similar to the symptoms that are present in men. However,  these symptoms may become increasingly important in specific contexts that apply exclusively to women.

Loss Of Interest And Low Energy

Perhaps the most recognizable symptom of depression is a loss of interest. This is when an individual experiences disinterest in or even aversion to activities that they once enjoyed or that were otherwise important to them. Some people, regardless of what they want to do, may feel a lack of physical, emotional, or mental energy that prevents them from engaging in various activities.

As a symptom of depression, this condition is typically persistent and long-term. There are times when you may prefer a quiet movie to hanging out with your friends. You may also have moments of wanting to sleep rather than going to work. These feelings are normal. But a symptom of depression may include feeling unable to work for a long time due to a lack of energy or motivation, or closing off your social networks if you feel like you’re unable to maintain them adequately. It can be important to differentiate normal feelings from potential symptoms of depression.

Health And Lifestyle Changes

Depression is a mental health condition, but it can have physical symptoms as well. Some examples of physical symptoms include maintaining a healthy weight and healthy sleep habits. Some people may experience loss of interest and low energy or spend a lot of time sleeping. Others have difficulty sleeping and don’t get rest at all, contributing to their low energy.

Similarly, some people experiencing symptoms of depression don’t have the energy to make healthy foods and gain weight as a result. Others experience loss of appetite and lose weight. It’s important to be aware that eating disorders are mental health conditions that can be related to depression. While some men experience eating disorders, researchers believe that it is roughly twice as common in women.

Communication

People experiencing depression sometimes communicate it. They may say that they’re feeling depressed, feeling hopeless or helpless, or even that they’re thinking about harming themselves. Women tend to have large and strong social networks, so they may be more likely to communicate their feelings.  This does not mean that men cannot or do not communicate similar feelings. Still, they may communicate their feelings at a lesser rate compared to women.

If you are thinking about suicide, considering harming yourself or others, feeling that any other person may be in any danger, or if you have any medical emergency, you must immediately call the emergency service number (1-800-273-8255 in the US and 0800-689-5652 in the UK) and notify the relevant authorities. Seek immediate in-person assistance.

Common Signs Of Depression In Men

While some signs of depression are similar in men and women, the National Institute of Mental Health have listed some signs and symptoms of depression that are more common in men:

  • Anger, irritability, or aggressiveness

  • Feeling anxious, restless, or “on edge”

  • Loss of interest in work, family, or once-pleasurable activities

  • Problems with sexual desire and performance

  • Feeling sad, “empty,” flat, or hopeless

  • Not being able to concentrate or remember details

  • Feeling very tired, not being able to sleep, or sleeping too much

  • Overeating or not wanting to eat at all

  • Physical aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems

  • Inability to meet the responsibilities of work, caring for family, or other important activities

  • Engaging in high-risk activities

  • A need for alcohol or drugs

  • Withdrawing from family and friends or becoming isolated

Symptoms can vary from few to many for different men experiencing depression.

Common Causes Of Depression In Women

Some causes of depression are unique to women. In many cases, this is because of biological events in a woman’s life that can disrupt the balance of hormones and neurotransmitters that contribute to emotional health.

Most care providers, like primary care doctors, are familiar with these conditions. Reaching out to these professionals can help those experiencing these conditions find physical and mental health resources tailored for women.

Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder

You may be familiar with PMS. While it can be uncomfortable, it’s not necessarily dangerous or threatening in the physical sense. However, for some women, PMS can become PMDD  or Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder. This form of PMS is severe and leads to depressive symptoms that are long-lasting and more severe than those that are already associated with menstruation. Other than spikes around your period, this disorder doesn’t have any of its own unique symptoms.

Postpartum Depression

Researchers believe that postpartum depression impacts approximately 20% of women. This is a kind of depression that affects mothers immediately following birth. However, new research shows that postpartum depression can also affect new fathers. For the most part, symptoms of postpartum depression are the same as symptoms of standard depression that were discussed above. However, there are a couple of more telling symptoms. These include the inability to bond with the child or thoughts of harming the child.

Menopausal Depression

Most women are likely to undergo menopause, but there are many who don’t for many reasons. Menopause will be a change, but it’s not necessarily a severe physical problem. However, for some women, menopause leads to longer and more severe complications, including depression. As with PMDD, timing is the only symptom of menopausal depression that sets it apart from other depressive disorders.

This is somewhat complicated by the fact that many people of this age are beginning to experience depression related to other social factors that can become significant at this age. This is another reason that maintaining a relationship with your primary care provider is advised.

What To Do

Once you’re able to recognize the associated conditions  and symptoms of depression in women, you may be better equipped to take action when you recognize them.

Talk To Your Care Provider

Maintaining a relationship with your primary care provider, specifically during any stage-of-life changes is recommended. This relationship can help your provider establish a rapport with you. As a result, you may feel more comfortable bringing your concerns and thoughts to your provider. Your provider may even notice early signs of mental health concerns and help you find the care you need.

Talk To Other People

Talking to your primary care provider is advised, but maintaining healthy relationships with your family and friends can also be beneficial for many reasons. Healthy social networks may help to prevent depression from coming on in the first place. Further, being close to people can make it more likely they will notice any declines in your mental health before it becomes a problem.

Take A Look At Your Lifestyle

Depression and other mental health concerns can negatively impact your sleep and eating habits. However, the opposite is also true. If your sleep hygiene, your diet, and your physical activity fall by the wayside, it can contribute to feelings of depression. Maintaining a well-balanced diet, trying to get good sleep, and spending time outdoors can help to keep depression at bay.

When To Get Help

The benefits of forming strong support networks is a common theme in mental health circles. Trusted individuals in these networks may be able to notice potential signs of mental health issues and help start the conversation. 

While other people may notice when something’s off,  they cannot read your mind or truly know your thought processes. If you feel like something is off, give yourself space and room to evaluate your situation.  It’s okay to seek guidance and information even if you feel if it’s not that serious.

If you have a low mood or low energy that prevents you from enjoying people or activities, or that gets in the way at work or with your family obligations, it may be helpful to talk to a care provider.

Depression Can Be Treated

Reaching Out Online

If you’re interested in learning more about the mental health discussions outlined in this article and how they may be affecting you, it might be a good idea to talk to a mental health expert.

Some of the symptoms of depression, including low energy, may make it difficult to see a mental health professional in person. You may feel too lethargic to travel to a therapist’s office, for instance. Online therapy may provide a viable alternative. With this form of internet-based treatment, you can seek mental health services from the comfort of your home. Online therapy may be more convenient too since you can make appointments according to your schedule. 

Recent research has found that online counseling is effective in treating the symptoms of depression in women. One study highlighted the positive outcomes associated with internet-based counseling for perinatal women.  

You can use online therapy platforms like BetterHelp Without leaving your house. BetterHelp has four different pathways of communication: in-app messaging, live chats, phone calls, and video conferences. 

Read below to learn more about how some individuals used BetterHelp to understand and manage their depression symptoms:

“Chris has helped me manage my depression and anxiety in meaningful, productive ways. He helps me gain a clearer perspective and identify negative thought patterns that are at odds with a healthy, positive outlook. I would recommend Chris to anybody else trying to deal with their depression.”

“Colleen has been an intricate part of my healing and I know that I would not be as successful as I am without her encouragement, support and advice. She is always there when I need her without hesitation and fully understands the goals I have and the challenges I face. She has wonderful techniques in helping me release and cope with stress and anxiety and it has greatly reduced my depression. Colleen is an absolutely fantastic therapist and I can't recommend her highly enough!”

Takeaway

Depression can affect both men and women, but these effects may differ. No matter your gender or life circumstances, you don’t have to experience depression alone. The trained therapists at BetterHelp are ready to help you manage your symptoms and start living your best life. Reach out today.

You Don’t Have To Face Depression Alone. Our Experienced Counselors Can Help.

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