Differences in Depression

Breaking completely unsurprising news.. Men and women express different symptoms of depression according to a study from Cardiff.

But there are some interesting points that I wasn’t aware of. The breakdown of the symptoms is quite interesting. According to the study

‘Female patients reported certain depressive symptoms more often than men, namely diminished libido (62% vs 35%) excessive sleep (19% vs 10%) self reproach (96% vs 87%), and diurnal variation (46% vs 32%).’

There don’t seem to be any symptoms listed though that men suffer more from than women.I’d be interested though to know if there are any symptoms that men express more than women.

Perhaps I’m not reading this correctly, and I’m certainly no academic, but does this mean that women just suffer from more of everything in relation to depression?

There is a higher propensity to depression in women. That is fact. There are more women who suffer from and seek help with depression during their lifetime and many arguments, discourses and studies including ones here and here.

I’m no medic either and certainly not one to fly in the face of scientific evidence, but instinctively, it seems that our society is more able to accept the model of female depression. It fits into a stereotype very easily. Would that mean that doctors are more likely to prescribe anti-depressants to women? Well, without actually conducting any research I can’t say, but a quick search on the subject (Google is a wonder resource!) seems to indicate that

More women are prescribed anti-depressants than men as noted by the WHO who say

‘Female gender is a significant predictor of being prescribed mood altering psychotropic drugs.’

and yet

male GPs are far more likely to do the prescribing

Of course, the first point would come as no great surprise if more women are actually suffering from depression (which is, I think, undeniable) – it makes sense that they are assisted pharmacologically, if that is what’s needed, of course – and more women are diagnosed with depression after all.

The second study though, if anything was more interesting in that female GPs were more likely to favour talking therapies.

Perhaps we have become more used to self-diagnosis and are asking GPs for particular medications, as The Times highlighted last year saying

‘Research on doctors’ habits also revealed that many felt they were prescribing the drugs too often, but did so because patients wanted medication. They said that funding was often not sufficient for alternative behavioural therapies and other counselling treatments, despite NICE guidance that they can be as effective as antidepressants for those with mild to moderate depression.’

So funnily enough it leads back to funding.

The likelihood of male GPs to prescribe more than female GPs remains a little baffling in the light of this discourse. Perhaps some female GPs have more sensitivity to the subject. Perhaps, became in general, women are more likely to want to talk about feelings, they can transfer some of this approach to their patients.

Or are women with depression more likely to want to talk to a female GP about their problems in the first instance so female GPs take some of the initial consultations when the depression is less severe?

I don’t know really, but I’d be interested in more information about that study. There must have been some more answers and reasons offered than just gender.

4 thoughts on “Differences in Depression

  1. Lots of interesting information there. If men and women suffer different symptoms of depression, does it suggest that depression is not a single coherent condition. Some academics, like Joanna Moncrieff think it is an artificial construct bringing together lots of different things. I’m not sure what I think about that but it’s an interesting idea

  2. Just through looking at some of the information ‘out there’ I realised how much writing and thought there is on the matter. I wouldn’t really go down the ‘artificial construct’ path (although I have to look it up!) but there is obviously such a variety of possible implications. I think this is one of the reasons I find it so interesting!

  3. Personally I think that it would be extremely hard to argue that depression doesn’t exist. There is some very good evidence that clinical depression is indeed a biological disoder and therefore anti-depressants can impact upon it biologically.

    However there is also a huge cultural issue here.

    We live in a society that expects there to be a pill for every ill.So people think that having a bad day (normal mood variation) equals depression when in fact it probably doesn’t.

    Mind you – I can sympathise with GPs who prescribe anti-depressants in a culture like ours. Dealing with allegations of neglect for not prescribing might be fairly straightforward to rebuff but they must also be time-consuming and quite frankly – GPs are people too. Would you want the hassle – especially in a culture that also believes there’s no smoke without fire?

  4. It’s a very good point, Stuart. I still feel that I’m fairly new to the field and have a lot of learning to do. I think people are more likely to ask for prescriptions because of greater awareness but it doesn’t necessarily explain why female GPs might be less likely to prescribe anti-depressants than male GPs..

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