Unlike a wound that can be bandaged or a broken bone that gets a cast, depression doesn’t have an visible signs that something is wrong. Nevertheless, it is a medical condition that can last a very long time. It’s just not the kind of thing from which you simply “snap out” of or dust yourself off either. And so, depression in the U.S is often associated with weakness. I’m not saying it is weakness. I’m saying it’s associated with that.
Depression is actually a medical condition with many dimensions and types. It does not look the same in each person. In fact, there are certain types of depression that are specific to women, but each of those experiences is different as well. It is not uncommon for people suffering from chronic pain conditions, such as fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis, to experience bouts of depression as well. Sometimes these “bouts” can last for many years along with the pain. Interestingly, women are diagnosed with depression twice as often as men. There are a variety of reasons for this, but we will just look at a few. Keep in mind, these reasons do not necessarily apply to women and depression around the world. We are just referring to United States.
Men Don’t Visit Their Doctor
It’s not exactly a newsflash to say that American men are not very good about seeing their healthcare practitioners. There are many reasons for this, most notably that American men have been conditioned to stuff their emotions and often their health ailments. This, in turn, leads to worse health problems. So, one reason that women are twice as likely to get diagnosed with depression is directly connected to women’s willingness to consult a physician. The American Institute of Stress adds, “There is also some evidence that both male as well as female physicians are more apt to make a diagnosis of depression in women than men with identical complaints.”
What a great segue to another big reason for the higher rate of depression in women. And this is applicable to other conditions that tend be labeled “women’s diseases” as well.
Doctors Don’t Trust Women’s Narratives
Laurie Edwards is the author of the book “In the Kingdom of the Sick: A Social History of Chronic Illness in America.” In an article she wrote for the New York Times, she refers to a 2009 review in the Journal of Pain. Here we learn that “women are twice as likely to have multiple sclerosis, two to three times more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis and four times more likely to have chronic fatigue syndrome than men. As a whole, autoimmune diseases, which often include debilitating pain, strike women three times more frequently than men.”
As a woman who experiences chronic pain herself, Edwards highlights the way female patients are viewed in medicine when it comes to reporting pain. Remember that pain is often associated with depression. In fact, the review she refers to even states that depression with pain is more prevalent in women. But women are more likely to report their pain with depression than men are, so we’re kind of going in circles here. They add that women with some forms of chronic pain are more likely to experience depression as well.
Edwards adds, “Conditions like fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome, for which definitive causes have not been identified and concrete diagnostic tests are not available, illustrate the problems associated with the perceived reliability of the female patient as narrator of her pain. Women are more likely to receive diagnoses of many of these more nebulous conditions — fibromyalgia, which affects about six million patients in the United States, is nine times more likely to be diagnosed in women than in men — and this discrepancy surely contributes to the widespread skepticism that still exists over the legitimacy of these disorders.” Depression is rather nebulous as well, is it not?
Lastly, women in the U.S. tend to be isolated, especially single and stay-at-home mothers. Unfortunately, we are not a tribal society that helps each other, even when it comes to parenting. Women are frequently left to handle child-rearing on their own. This happens in addition to the other responsibilities that come with maintaining a household, from working at a job to cooking and cleaning and so much more. For many women, taking care of the family becomes a matter of survival. In the meantime, their own well-being is neglected because they are doing everything alone. And unless you are a woman, you’ll probably be surprised to know that this even happens when a partner or spouse is involved.
Are you a woman who suffers depression? Do you know if something triggered it or does it seem to lack explanation?