Depression And Women Essay, Research Paper
Around the world, depression occurs more frequently among women than among men. The female-male ratio ranges from 2:1 to 3:1 in most industrialized countries (Nolen-Hoeksema, 1999). “Women are 2-3 times more likely than men to suffer from depression”(Encarta Encyclopedia, 2001). “Why do women feel blue more often than men?”
Three explanations of the sex difference in depression for a potential hypothesis are the following:
(1) Women are more willing to seek help and, therefore, are more likely to be categorized as having depression.
(2) Biological differences may exist between females and males that predispose females to become more depressed than males.
(3) Psychological factors-different rearing environments, different social roles, and less favorable economic and achievement opportunities, for example-may produce greater depression in women than in men.
From my research and knowledge in this subject, I would say that biological differences are the main reason for the frequent cause of depression in women. The first potential hypothesis may be true, but about 1/3 of women suffering from depression do not even get help. Often they do not recognize the symptoms for depression. For example they may be experiencing headaches, fatigue, and sleeping problems, but do not realize that those are symptoms of depression. Although there may be psychological differences between men and women, I feel that women are more sensitive – in terms of physiology.
First, because of differences between the X and Y chromosome, male and female brains are exposed to different hormonal surroundings in utero. These hormonal differences may affect brain development so that men and women have different vulnerabilities and different physiological reactions to environmental stressors – later in life.
Second, the fact that post pubertal men and women have different levels of circulating gonadal steroids might somehow put women at higher risk for depression. Research studies shows that girls become more susceptible to depression than boys only after puberty, when they begin menstruating and experiencing hormonal fluxes. Estrogen might set the stage for depression indirectly by priming the body’s stress response. Evidence is emerging that estrogen might not only increase Cortisol (hormone that increases the activity of the body’s metabolic and immune system, among other’s) secretion but also decrease Cortisol’s ability to shut down its own secretion. The result might be a stress response that is not only more pronounced, but also longer-lasting in women than in men.
It is unclear whether depression is a cause or consequence of elevated Cortisol levels, but the two are undoubtedly related. Over the past few decades, a number of studies have shown that Cortisol levels are elevated in about half of all severely depressed people, both men and women. So the idea is this: if estrogen raises Cortisol levels after stress or decreases Cortisol’s ability to shut down its own secretion, then estrogen might render women more prone to depression – particularly after a stressful event.
Biological and social influences not only coexist but also probably reinforce one another. However, as I stated earlier, biological differences may make women more prone to feel blue. Men and women are unique and our differences will always lie deep in our roots of physiology. I am convinced that this is the nature of women’s depression, thus making us vulnerable to stress. Perhaps the current effort to better understand women’s depression will be successful and reduce women’s pain and suffering from feeling so blue.