Men and women have obvious physical differences, but a new study from the American Psychological Association explains how there are also gender differences in mental illness diagnoses. Researchers found that more women than men are diagnosed with mood and anxiety disorders, and more men than women are diagnosed with substance use disorders and antisocial personality.
The researchers used data collected in 2001 and 2002 through a National Institutes of Health survey. Further analysis explained in part why there are differences in mental disorder diagnoses.
“Women with anxiety disorders are more likely to internalize emotions, which typically results in withdrawal, loneliness and depression,” according to the press release. “Men, on the other hand, are more likely to externalize emotions, which leads to aggressive, impulsive, coercive and noncompliant behavior, according to the study. The researchers demonstrated that it was differences in these liabilities to internalize and to externalize that accounted for gender differences in prevalence rates of many mental disorders.”
The study states that these results can be used to develop more effective treatments that focus more on the issues with internalizing and externalizing emotions and recognize the overall differences in gender.
“Prevention efforts that focus on gender-linked core psychological processes are likely to be effective in impacting multiple disorders,” the study states. “In women, these preventative measures might focus, for instance, on coping and cognitive restructuring skills to reduce the likelihood of rumination and cognitive distortions developing into clinically significant depression or anxiety.”
Although the study intends to provide insight for more effective treatments, some mental health experts do see some possible concerns with the study as a result of thinking of some mental disorders as women’s versus men’s.
“I think we need to be careful not to say that depression and anxiety are ‘women's disorders,’” said Sheela Raja, a clinical psychologist and assistant professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, in an email.