Depression Differs in Men and Women

By Ally Tobler
For Unwind magazine

Depression cannot simply be defined as someone who is experiencing sadness, it has more facets than people often assume. In fact, depression is defined differently for men and women.

Human beings often feel melancholy as a result of loss, failures or low self-esteem. This is considered normal. However, according to WedMD, “when feelings of intense sadness — including feeling helpless, hopeless, and worthless — last for many days to weeks and keep you from functioning normally…it may very well be clinical depression.”

However, several people with depression are actually unaware of the fact that it is easily treatable, but only if they seek help.

“We rarely worry about the people we’re seeing, it’s the people we are not seeing that we worry about,” said Tom Ruggieri, coordinator of the Faculty Staff Assistance Program (FSAP) at the University of Maryland.

Ruggieri meets with faculty for mental health counseling five days a week. “The crazy thing is, treatment really works. With just a couple of sessions of cognitive behavioral therapy, sometimes combined with medication, people get better,” Ruggieri said.

Photo by Danilo Lewis

Photo by Danilo Lewis

Women are twice as likely to develop depression than men are, according to an article in Harvard Health Publications.

“Women traditionally fit the descriptions that you see in surveys and diagnostic manuals,” Ruggieri said. “While men oftentimes are misdiagnosed because it comes out in agitation and anger.”

About 60 percent of the university’s faculty that come in for therapy sessions are women, while men make up the remaining 40 percent. According to Ruggieri, these statistics make it seem “that more women have depression because more women ask for help than men do.”

However, Joan Bellsey, the assistant coordinator of FSAP, noted contrasting observations. Once a week Bellsey counsels students and four days a week she sees staff. Recently, Bellsey has encountered more anxiety in male students.

“Usually anxiety is much more of a women’s disorder, but men have taken that over in school,” Bellsey said. “When it comes to faculty, more women than men make the effort to see her for help.”

Depression in men and women is also caused by different factors. Freshman engineering major Jordyn Berry stated, “Depression in men is more of a societal thing and has to do with what is going on around them. Whereas depression in women would be … internal conflict with themselves.”

As a friend of two males who have experienced depression, Berry said they “were really depressed about things happening in their lives around them, with family, school, friends or lack of friends.” He also had a friend who, after becoming transgender, “wasn’t being accepted by anyone: family, society, our town.”

“[This] sent him into a heavy depression,” Berry said.

When it comes to girls, “a lot of it has to do with not seeing themselves in the right light,” Berry said. “[They’re] not as confident about themselves and then their self-esteem is low. The way that they perceive themselves affects how they think other people see them … with guys it’s being broken, with girls it’s like they’re breaking themselves.”

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Photo by Rebecca Torchia

Fortunately, if you or someone you know has depression, the university has resources available. Foremost, there is the Counseling Center in the Shoemaker Building, where students can see a psychologist. However, medication is prescribed at the Mental Health Unit within the Health Center where doctors are available. For those who prefer anonymity over meeting face-to-face, there is the Counseling Center Crisis Support Line (301-314-7651).

As stated previously, depression is a curable illness. By opening up about illness to a professional, patients “start to learn how to listen to the way they are with themselves and the way they talk to themselves,” Bellsey said. Not only does “it gives them a lot of power,” but it fuels their hope for conquering this malady.

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