The Mental Health of Men and Women The Mental Health of Men and Women

The Mental Health of Men and Women

It could take all day to explain the differences between men and women.

We don’t think alike, look alike, talk alike or smell alike. Women mature faster than men even though the male brain tends to be just a little bit bigger than a woman’s brain. Bigger does not always mean smarter, however. At least that’s what your girlfriend tells you every time you throw that line her way. That reminds me, research has also shown that women are able to verbally express themselves better than men.

Men and Women have different hobbies and play with different toys. We hear and see differently. For men, sex leads to love. For women, love leads to sex. Yes, sometimes this gets confused but overall, this is true. And it doesn’t take much for a dude to get aroused, unlike women who need a lot of foreplay.

Women follow directions differently than men, who sometimes just like to find their own way. Women are much more emotional than guys, much more. And they communicate about everything, until the sun goes down, they communicate. Guys are not good talkers especially when it comes to emotional stuff. We may not be good at listening so well to emotional stuff either.

Conflict is even handled differently between men and women. Men can fist fight with their best friend and a few minutes later go get a beer with him. With women, conflict resolution is a whole process that involves her mother, sister and BFF.

Emotions, such as fear, you guessed it, different between a man and woman. A thief jumps out to rob a man, the man punches the thief. A thief jumps out to rob a woman; the woman throws her purse to the thief and starts crying. The list of differences could go on and on and on.

The differences between men and women are what makes being together so great. Who wants to be married to yourself? Boring! You want someone different who can offer you new insight, a new perspective, and who can complement you.

Mental health differences are not always as fun and easy to handle. Because the brains of men and women are so different, it is natural for the coping skills to be different. Depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, eating disorders, anti-social personality disorder and bipolar disorder are all areas of mental health that can hold striking differences among genders.

Depression

Depression is twice as common in women. This may be because women have a lot more to deal with when it comes to hormones and having babies and other issues men never want to hear about. Perinatal depression, when a woman is pregnant and being introduced to a bunch of new hormones that never existed before she got pregnant make it hard to be happy all the time. Or other disorders such as perimenopause depression, post-partum depression, premenstrual dysmorphic disorder, and post-menopause depression. Wow! It’s no wonder women are emotional.

Men aren’t excluded, however, from depressive symptoms. Just because they aren’t diagnosed with it as much, doesn’t mean it’s not there. Depression in men may look more like a punch to the wall, grumpiness for no explained reason, road rage, complaining all the time (even complaining about women being emotional). Ouch!

A woman with depression may sleep all day, cry for long periods of time, and then go on an ice cream binge. Men who are depressed may be angry when they wake up, want to kick the dog that just tripped them, and then sit in the recliner all day watching football and drinking beer. Or vice versa.

To make this a little more real, let’s look at the statistics. At least 12 percent of women in America experience clinical depression at some point in their lives. Adults between the ages of 45 and 65 have the highest rates of depression. Ethnic males are more likely to report depressive symptoms than non-Hispanic white males, and 1 out of every 10 women who have just had a baby report having depressive symptoms.

These are staggering numbers, especially when depression is usually connected to some other form of mental health disorder like anxiety.

Anxiety

In studies, women have been found to be diagnosed with anxiety over men. This can be caused by many factors, one of which is attributed to serotonin. In the female brain, serotonin is not processed as fast as it is in the male brain. In addition, the “fight or flight” message sent to the body from the brain stays activated in women longer than it does in men, meaning men calm down a lot faster than women.

Stress is reported at much higher levels from women. They claim to stress over money, family, health, and work. While this could be related to the brain and how it influences our reactions to stress; it could also be that men don’t report their stressors as often as women. Remember, women are better communicators. Men seem to say everything is fine when maybe it isn’t always so fine.

Panic disorders are also more prevalent in women than in men. Men start to feel anxious they go on the move, finding some type of exercise to get rid of all that nervous energy. Women go on the move too, pacing, holding their heart like Fred Sanford thinking they are about to have a heart attack. That is, until they retreat into isolation.

Anxiety is no joke. It is a very common disorder that can be linked to many other mental health problems, even obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Obsessive- Compulsive Disorder

Obsessive-compulsive disorder is associated with anxiety disorders. And since women have a higher likelihood of getting anxiety than men, you would think that women would get obsessive-compulsive disorder more often too. But that is not the case. The New York Times reports that women and men have an equal chance of having obsessive-compulsive tendencies.

In one study, women have been found to express their obsessive-compulsive rituals of cleaning or contamination fears more than men; men were found to have higher expressions of sexual compulsions. There were no differences in the areas of checking or hoarding tendencies.

Most obsessive-compulsive behaviors revolve around repetitive actions such as clicking, counting, and checking but really any behavior can become part of the illness. This disorder usually starts showing up in childhood or adolescence but it can also appear in adulthood. The causes vary from neurological disorders to traumatic events.

Some obsessive-compulsive traits can even revolve around eating, or not eating.

Eating Disorders

It has been reported that there are about 20 million women with eating disorders in America and 10 million men. This may very well be because men don’t report having an eating disorder as much as women do. Or, the families of men don’t report it or don’t know as much as they do with women.

Of those men who do report their eating disorders, they also have additional psychiatric disorders that accompany their disease. These men also have a tendency to be dissatisfied with life in general.

There is an eating disorder that is getting much more attention lately and could move the numbers higher for both men and women. It is called binge-eating disorder and both men and women are reporting this problem at alarming rates.

Binge-eating disorder is said to affect three times the number of people with anorexia or bulimia. It is more common than breast cancer, HIV and schizophrenia. It’s like this, people feel stressed, sad, or even happy. Without the right coping skills, they turn to food. Food is known to stimulate chemicals in the brain like dopamine and serotonin that make us all feel good. So we eat to feel good and help us deal with emotions. But with binge eating disorder it is hard to know when to stop eating. Therefore, the eating continues and continues until you have no other choice but to stop. Then a ton of other emotions appear like guilt and depression. It can be a hard cycle to break.

For men, binge eating disorder is most common during mid-life. For women, this is more common in early adulthood. Emotions associated with this disorder may include shame and guilt and these can lead to people wanting to isolate themselves from society.

Another group of people with mental health disorders who don’t necessarily want to isolate themselves from society but do have a hard time fitting into society are those with anti-social personality disorders.

Anti-Social Personality Disorder

When you hear the words anti-social, it is normal to think hey, that is someone who does not like to be around other people. Believe it or not, this isn’t always the case. In the mental health world, anti-social refers to a person who does not know how (or isn’t able) to act right around other people. It means they can’t easily fit into social situations. They seem awkward at times, or create awkward moments in social settings.

Anti-social disorders are more common in men. For once, the men win. But this is not a good win for anyone. Coping with anti-social personality disorder can be very difficult, especially since convincing the person they have the disorder in the first place is nearly impossible.

The person with anti-social personality disorder has a self-inflated ego and can have a total disregard for the feelings and needs of others. You know that guy that knows so much more than you do? He is the same one who tries to one-up you in every conversation even though you may be the expert in that subject. He is the same guy that doesn’t have a job because most jobs are beneath him. That’s the guy with anti-personality disorder. He is no fun to be around. But it is not necessarily his choice to behave that way. There are a lot of brain chemicals and neurotransmitters involved in making him behave so oddly. This goes for women too.

The treatment needs for women, even though fewer women have this disorder, are higher. Basically, women need more help dealing with their disorder than men do, especially when it comes to victimization, aggressiveness and irritability. This is good since women are more likely to get treatment than men. Once a person realizes that they have a problem and are willing to seek treatment, there are many options available to them.

People with anti-social personality disorders have often been linked to other personality disorders such as borderline personality disorder. This may become useful when trying to determine how to help someone with these issues.

Borderline Personality Disorder

Research shows that borderline personality disorder is reported higher in women than in men. However, many mental health professionals tend to think that this disorder is rather equal among the two genders.

People with borderline personalities tend to show aggression. In one study, aggression was found to be equal in both men and women who were diagnosed with borderline.

Some common traits among men with borderline personality are explosive temperament and substance abuse. With women, they tend to exhibit more eating, mood, anxiety and post-traumatic stress. It has also been noted that women tend to get treatment more often than men for specific borderline diagnosis. Men are more likely to go to treatment for something like drug or alcohol abuse first with borderline as a secondary issue.

Good Advice

There are two very good pieces of advice to help wrap up this article. First, if you think your spouse has a disorder, be careful how you approach them. Do not go home and say, “Hey honey, guess what? You have anti-social personality disorder.”

Every time you get into a fight with them, no matter how big or small, do not say, “You are so borderline.” Or “That’s just your anxiety talking.”

I promise neither of these will go over well.

Be kind with your words. Talk about how you feel versus how they act. Let them know you will walk with them on their journey of recovery.

Second, seek professional help. Cognitive behavioral therapy is a relatively universal treatment and a very good place to start when getting help. Ask your friends for recommendations of good therapists. And don’t act surprised when they give you the name of their therapist. More people are seeking help than ever before and this is a great thing.

Research different disorders and gain knowledge about them, but do not try to treat this disorder on your own. Professional help is the best way to go in dealing with any of these problems.