Marla Ahlgrimm discusses the differences in mental health between the genders.
There are obvious physical differences between the sexes. However, there are also differences that are not as easy to see with the naked eye. According to Marla Ahlgrimm, men and women develop differently from birth, and everything from societal roles to hormones impact their mental health. There are significant differences that are worth exploring.
Depression and anxiety
Marla Ahlgrimm says that women tend to experience depression twice as often as men. In addition to genetics and expected roles, gender biases that result in lower wages and thus greater economic struggles also contribute to the higher instances of major depressive disorders.
Anxiety is also more prevalent in women than men. Testosterone, which may have an anti-anxiety effect, is likely to blame for this, says Marla Ahlgrimm. While women do have some testosterone in their bodies, these levels are much higher in genetic males. A bright spot here is that women tend to seek treatment for anxiety more often than men.
Posttraumatic stress disorder
While depression and anxiety are often the result of long-lasting situations, such as poverty, trauma is often triggered by an individual event (or series of related events). Outside of military combat, PTSD also overwhelmingly affects women. Marla Ahlgrimm says a major contributing factor to this is that women are more affected by things like home displacement, war, natural disasters, and violence. Further, all women have an approximately two in 10 chance of being raped or sexually assaulted at some point in their lives. Each of these can cause significant trauma that can result in PTSD. It should also be noted that women living in abusive relationships are more likely to experience PTSD during and after.
Less talked about than anxiety, depression, or PTSD are eating disorders. This is another type of mental health issue that Marla Ahlgrimm says heavily sways toward women. Historically, women (particularly in Western culture) are conditioned to believe their body should look a certain way. We are also taught that it is our responsibility to feed our families well without overindulging ourselves. Marla Ahlgrimm reports that this can trigger an unhealthy cycle of binge eating or avoiding food altogether. One alarming statistic: 6% of middle school girls report weight control behaviors, such as self-induced vomiting and taking weight loss drugs or laxatives.
Women who experience any of the above are also at a higher risk of suicide or suicidal tendencies. Marla Ahlgrimm points out that, while men die by their own hand more often, women are much more likely to attempt to take their own lives.
Men and women become addicted to drugs at a nearly equal rate. The difference between the sexes here is that women can become chemically dependent after a shorter exposure time and with less of their substance of choice. Marla Ahlgrimm also explains that women’s brain chemistry makes them more likely to crave drugs or alcohol, even with substance abuse treatment. In a reciprocal and unfortunate pattern, women who experience trauma, such as rape or domestic violence, are more likely to use drugs or alcohol to the point of dependency.
Marla Ahlgrimm says that mental and physical healthcare providers should pay attention to the differences between the genders when making any type of diagnosis. When it comes to mental health, treating men and women the same may result in a missed opportunity to prescribe treatment options, such as antidepressant medication or therapy.
Ultimately, while men and women are equal, we are different. It is up to both society and our healthcare climate to acknowledge these differences and react accordingly.