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Depression symptoms easier to spot in women - so many men remain undiagnosed

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
November 15th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

It's easy to tell when a female is feeling down, many say. Women are more open about their feelings, and - a common male conception - are highly vocal about expressing their displeasure. Henceforth, symptoms of depression in women are more readily available in women - and many men with the same condition therefore remain undiagnosed.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - These conclusions are borne out in a new study. When presented with a scenario of a man or woman in distress, men were more likely to say a woman was depressed than their male counterparts.

In the study, Dr. Viren Swami, a reader in psychology at the University of Westminster, presented study participants with one of two fictitious subjects, Kate and Jack. Both had identical symptoms of major depression, the only difference being their suggested gender.

"For the past two weeks, Kate/Jack has been feeling really down," a sample of the test reads.

"S/he wakes up in the morning with a flat, heavy feeling that sticks with her/him all day. S/he isn't enjoying things the way s/he normally would. S/he finds it hard to concentrate on anything."

The respondents were then asked to identify whether the individual described suffered a mental health disorder. They were also asked how likely they would be to recommend seeking professional help to the subject in the test.

Both men and women were equally likely to classify "Kate" as having a mental health disorder, but men were less likely than women to indicate that Jack suffered from depression.

"Men were also more likely to recommend that Kate seek professional help than women were, but both men and women were equally likely to make this suggestion for Jack," Swami says.

"Respondents, particularly men, rated Kate's case as significantly more distressing, difficult to treat, and deserving of sympathy than they did Jack's case."

Individual attitudes towards depression were associated with skepticism about psychiatry and anti-scientific attitudes, Swami added.

"The results are significant for initiatives aimed at enhancing mental health literacy, which should consider the impact of gender stereotypes and attitudes towards help-seeking behaviors," Swami added.

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