The Experience of Symptoms of Depression in Men vs Women

Gender and Medical Symptoms

Many conditions in medicine were originally described in studies that have men or women over-represented. Therefore the classic description of symptoms in medical text books for many conditions, for instance, a heart attack, actually turn out to be the way one gender tends to experience that illness (in the case of heart attack, the traditional description is more the way men tend to experience a heart attack (sharp, crushing, pressure like chest pain), whereas the female experience has only recently been characterized).

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Women vs. Men with Depression Symptoms

The same is true of depression, but with the gender bias in reverse. Depression is incredibly common, but it also shows some important gender differences. Women tend to come to the doctor more than men in general, and also tend to report more depression than men, which could be because of social norms for men to not open up. Therefore our classic symptom descriptions of depression tend to fit female experiences.

Men, as compared to women, are for example, more likely to express depressive symptoms by having anger attacks/aggression, substance abuse, and risk taking. An important study demonstrated that if depression symptoms include both the ways that men and women tend to describe their depression experience, the differences in rates of depression between men and women are eliminated.

TMS and Gender

Luckily, TMS (transcranial magnetic stimulation) is equally effective in both women and men!

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Martin, L. A., Neighbors, H. W., & Griffith, D. M. (2013). The experience of symptoms of depression in men vs women: analysis of the National Comorbidity Survey Replication. JAMA psychiatry70(10), 1100-1106.