Looking At Gender And Mental Health

By Darlene Silvernail PhD LMHC CAP

Gender And Mental Health

Gender And Mental Health:Gender can play a large role in mental health and the diagnosis of mental health disorders. Traditional gender roles prevent men from seeking mental health services, while supporting women’s choices to seek the same services (South University Online, 2012). Furthermore, the descriptions of certain disorders may lead to gender biases in diagnosis. For example, the description for antisocial personality disorder, a disregard for the rights of others including lying, fighting, stealing, and physical cruelty, is an exaggeration of the male gender role (Brannon, 2011). Because of this, men are more likely to be diagnosed with the disorder than women are. Similarly, women are more likely to be diagnosed with disorders that are exaggerations of the traditional female gender role, such as dependent personality disorder, anxiety, and depression. Traditional gender roles may also result in the under diagnosis of depression in men. As Brannon (2011) noted, “admitting to emotional problems is not part of the male gender role and keeps many men from identifying their problems as depression” (Brannon), and men may not display the same types of depression symptoms that women do.

In addition to gender stereotypes, there a number of other factors that may explain why depression and anxiety are more common in women. First, women report higher levels of stress than men do, partially due to their multiple responsibilities at home and in the work place (Cook, Brahier, & Hughes, 2011). This increased stress puts women at a higher risk for psychological disorders such as depression and anxiety. Women also provide emotional support for their husbands and children, but they do not necessarily receive the same support in return (Brannon, 2011). This lack of support may also lead to increased stress, depression, and anxiety. Hormonal differences may also put women at an increased risk for depression.

Women are also more likely to be diagnosed with somatization disorder, which describes recurring physical complaints with no apparent physical origin or medical diagnosis (Brannon, 2011). Specifically, 95 percent of the people diagnosed with somatization disorder in the U.S. are women. This high rate of diagnosis in women may be the result of physicians dismissing women’s physical complaints and attributing their physical symptoms to emotional problems.

While understanding which disorders are more common in women or men can be helpful, it is important to remember that there are exceptions to the rule, and just because a disorder is more common in one gender does not mean that it does not exist in the other. Relying on gender stereotypes can lead to the over diagnosis of certain disorders and the under diagnosis of others (Brannon, 2011). Clinicians must consider several different factors, including the client’s culture, past experiences, and current situation. In sum, they need to look at clients as individuals.

Dr. Silvernail is A Licensed Mental Health Counselor with a PhD in Psychology and Addictionology Counseling. Darlene has held post in the United States Army, was a Police Officer for the Harford Police Department before finding her calling as a counselor of human services. In the last 15 years Darlene has held numerous leadership positions in outpatient programs, residential treatment programs and counseling centers. She has over 26 years of experience developing and implementing quality educational programs in the field of addictions treatment and psychology. Dr. Silvernail teamed up with the women of PWN Books to write a series on empowerment. In all Darlene has authored and co-authored ten books. This series has not only found a steady following, but woman across the nation have experienced the Empowerment Series first hand through the seasonal conferences and workshops. www.SilvernailConsultantServices.com