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Depression: How Men and Women are Affected Differently

September 10, 2008 11:59 AM with Dr. Robert R. Farra

Research studies have found that depression affects twice as many women as men. Important questions remain to be answered about the causes underlying this gender difference.

It is still not known if depression is truly less common among men, or if men are less likely than women to recognize, acknowledge, and seek help for depression. The experts in the Psychiatry Department at NorthShore answer your questions on depression and what both men and women can do to get help. 

Kristin Philbin (Moderator) - 11:53 AM:
Welcome to ENH’s latest chat: Depression: How Men and Women are Affected Differently with Dr. Robert R Farra. The chat will begin shortly, feel free to start submitting questions for Dr. Farra answer.

Dr. Robert R. Farra (NorthShore) - 11:56 AM:
Good afternoon. I’m Dr. Bob Farra, Coordinator of the Mood and Anxiety Disorders Program for the Department of Psychiatry. Our topic today is "Depression: How Men and Woman are affected differently." I’m happy to take your questions on any topic related to depression.

  Lauren (Mount Prospect, IL) - 11:57 AM:
What can cause Depression?
Dr. Robert R. Farra (NorthShore)
Some people experience depression as a reaction to an event, for example a death in the family, a relationship breakup, etc. Others experience depression for no external reason.

  Heidi (Ottawa, IL) - 12:01 PM:
How do men experience depression?
Dr. Robert R. Farra (NorthShore)
People with depression do not all experience depression the same way. The most common symptoms of depression include: • Persistent sad, anxious or "empty" feelings • Feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness and/or helplessness • Irritability, restlessness • Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex • Fatigue and decreased energy • Difficulty concentrating, remembering details and making decisions • Insomnia, early–morning awakening, or excessive sleeping • Overeating, or appetite loss • Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts Men may be more willing to acknowledge: • Fatigue • Irritability • Loss of interest in work and hobbies • Sleep disturbance Men are more likely than women to turn to alcohol or drugs when they are depressed

  Karen (Urbana, IL) - 12:03 PM:
What other conditions may co-exist with depression?
Dr. Robert R. Farra (NorthShore)
There are many conditions that can co-occur with depression. The most important thing is to have a thorough evaluation to determine exactly what is going on.

  Rebecca McFadzean (Evanston, Illinois 60202) - 12:05 PM:
Is depression on the rise?
Dr. Robert R. Farra (NorthShore)
Approximately 20.9 million American adults, or about 9.5 percent of the U.S. population age 18 and older in a given year, have a mood disorder. Mood disorders include major depressive disorder, dysthymic disorder, and bipolar disorder. Major depressive disorder affects approximately 14.8 million American adults, or about 6.7 percent of the U.S. population age 18 and older in a given year. Major depressive disorder may be more prevalent in women than in men. However, we still don’t know if depression is truly less common among men, or if men are less likely to recognize, acknowledge and seek help.

  Ieshia (Evanston, Il) - 12:06 PM:
Hi Dr. Farra, I would like to know if depression can cause hair loss?
Dr. Robert R. Farra (NorthShore)
Individuals can experience many different somatic symptoms. Hair loss is one.

  Jordan (Tinley Park, IL) - 12:08 PM:
Hi Dr. Do people always know if they are depressed or suicidal ?
Dr. Robert R. Farra (NorthShore)
People may not know they are depressed. They usually know they don't feel good and they can feel suicidal. Signs and symptoms that may accompany suicidal feelings include: talking about feeling suicidal or wanting to die feeling hopeless, that nothing will ever change or get better feeling helpless, that nothing one does makes any difference feeling like a burden to family and friends abusing alcohol or drugs putting affairs in order (e.g., organizing finances or giving away possessions to prepare for one’s death) writing a suicide note putting oneself in harm’s way, or in situations where there is a danger of being killed Thoughts of suicide should be taken very seriously. If you or someone you know is suicidal, go to the nearest Emergency Room for a complete evaluation.

  Jorge (Aurora, IL) - 12:13 PM:
What kind of help is available for family and friends of a depressed person?
Dr. Robert R. Farra (NorthShore)
Family and friends often know something is wrong; however, they may not know it’s depression. Family and friends can be instrumental in getting him to consult their primary care doc or a mental health professional. Offer to go to the first appointment. Encourage the person to talk about depression and help them understand that depression is a treatable illness. This continues to be our greatest challenge: getting people with depression to reach out and access our services. When I speak to groups about depression, I say, “Suffering is optional.” It’s sad to hear people talk about suffering for months or years before getting into treatment. Once in treatment you may continue to help by encouraging him to stay with treatment until symptoms are resolved.

  Mary (Lake in the Hills, IL) - 12:14 PM:
How can I talk to my son about depression? I think he may be at risk, but don’t want to go about asking him in the wrong way.
Dr. Robert R. Farra (NorthShore)
This is a very important question. It's not always easy to talk with someone about their depression. But, you can express your concerns and then try to persuade him to come in for a complete evaluation. You don't have to face this alone. Mental health professionals are available to support and guide your efforts.

  James Murphy (Ravenswood, Chicago, IL) - 12:17 PM:
Why do men seem to be diagnosed with depression less frequently than women?
Dr. Robert R. Farra (NorthShore)
Because many men in our culture have been taught to be self-sufficient and not admit to "weaknesses," they don't seek treatment as frequently as women. It is totally unnecessary for men to suffer in the name of being strong. It takes courage to admit we need help, but that's the first step.

  Paul (Chicago - Lakeview, IL) - 12:20 PM:
Is the only way to treat depression with medication? What other options/suggestions do you have for treatment?
Dr. Robert R. Farra (NorthShore)
No, Paul. Medication is not the only way depression is treated. In the Mood and Anxiety Disorders Program here at Evanston Northwestern Healthcare we think it’s most important to provide a thorough evaluation to determine exactly what’s going on. Then we build a comprehensive treatment program that offers the best possible outcomes. Research has shown that treatment with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is very effective in treating depression. Using CBT we help patients change their often-negative patterns of thinking and behavior that may be contributing to the depression. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has been widely researched and has been shown to be most effective in the resolution of depression. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is based on the idea that our thoughts cause our feelings and our behavior, not external things, like people, situations, and events. The benefit of this type of therapy is that it puts the power to improve things in the hand of patient.

  Nathan (Joliet, IL) - 12:23 PM:
At what point should I go to the doctor if I keep feeling bad?
Dr. Robert R. Farra (NorthShore)
Don't wait. Primary Care Physicians are skilled in the diagnosis of depression. After they make the first diagnosis they often refer people to us for treatment.

  Chad (Illinois) - 12:25 PM:
Hi Dr. I have been going through a tough time lately. My family has been struggling through the illness of my nephew and lately I don't know how to cope with it. I'm feeling very helpless, and I don't know who to turn to. Are there any books you could recommend that can help?
Dr. Robert R. Farra (NorthShore)
Chad, no book can take the place of meeting with a Mental Health Professional. If you are in distress, reach out for help.

  Rebecca McFadzean (Evanston, Illinois 60202) - 12:31 PM:
Is there any cure for depression?
Dr. Robert R. Farra (NorthShore)
Psychotherapy is very effective in resolving depression. Medication can also be helpful in combination.

  Andrew (Chicago, IL) - 12:33 PM:
How do you separate anxiety disorders from depression? Are they directly related to one another?
Dr. Robert R. Farra (NorthShore)
Often people who are depressed also experience anxiety. Anxiety disorders are often separate from depressive disorders. What is most important is that an individual have a thorough evaluation to determine the problem and then recommend solutions.

  Kerry (Elgin, IL) - 12:36 PM:
Hello Dr. I wanted to ask about postpartum depression. I recently gave birth and although I love my baby, I can't help but feeling down for the most part throughout the days. Could I be going through depression? I don't even want to think that I could ever hurt my child, but it's always in the back of my mind.
Dr. Robert R. Farra (NorthShore)
Kerry, postpartum depression is a real medical condition that can be treated. Please don't wait to get an evaluation. Let your Primary Care physician know how you feel. You'll be glad you did.

  Stacey (Naperville, IL) - 12:39 PM:
Hello Dr. I have a question about my son. We recently moved to Naperville from Chicago and I've noticed that he has been really quiet and seems upset or sad a lot lately. He had to leave his friends behind and start at a new school. He was very involved in sports like baseball and soccer. I wanted him to join those same activities here, but he doesn't seem interested. Is it time to seek medical help?
Dr. Robert R. Farra (NorthShore)
Changing schools can be very difficult for some children. Since you have "noticed that he has been really quiet and seems upset or sad a lot lately" it is definitely time to seek medical/psychological help.

  Martha (Cincinnati, OH) - 12:42 PM:
How common is depression among senior citizens? My mother is getting older, but still lives alone. I hope she is doing fine, but I always worry about her
Dr. Robert R. Farra (NorthShore)
Martha, depression among seniors is prevelant. Seniors may not know they are depressed. They may feel sad, have little energy, and not interested in life. I suggest you monitor her mood. Depression is treatable. No one needs to languish in the depths of depression.

  Meagan (River North) - 12:45 PM:
What is the best way to treat depression in conjunction with drug abuse or substance addictions?
Dr. Robert R. Farra (NorthShore)
Depressive disorders may co-occur with substance abuse. The best way to treat them is to have a comprehensive evaluation to determine what's going on and then what can be offered to resolve the problems.

  Kerry (Elgin, IL) - 12:48 PM:
Thank you Doctor. What is the treatment for postpartum depression? Is it similar to regular treatment for depression?
Dr. Robert R. Farra (NorthShore)
There are psychologists who specialize in the treatment of postpartum depression. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has been widely researched and has been shown to be very effective in the resolution of postpartum depression. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is based on the idea that our thoughts cause our feelings and our behavior, not external things, like people, situations, and events. The benefit of this type of therapy is that it puts the power to improve things in the hand of patient. We can change the way we think to feel / act better even if the people or situations do not change.

Kristin Philbin (Moderator) - 12:50 PM:
Thank you everyone for your great participation, but unfortunately we only have ten minutes left, so please submit any final questions you have.

  Martha (Cincinnati, OH) - 12:50 PM:
Would you suggest her moving in with me to monitor her closer? I feel she may have a bad reaction to that. She is highly independent! Thanks!
Dr. Robert R. Farra (NorthShore)
I wouldn't suggest moving your Mother in with you. I suggest you monitor how she is doing and bring your concerns to your Mother's primary care provider.

  Lisa (Evanston Il) - 12:51 PM:
Can depression "run in families" be genetic?
Dr. Robert R. Farra (NorthShore)
Yes, Lisa, there appears to be a genetic link and depressive disorders run in famlies. But researchers have not yet identified the specific gene. We are hopeful that one day this gene will be identified.

  Clara (South Bend, IN) - 12:54 PM:
My boyfriend gets "moody," he can get very angry and tense at times and then he'll be very sweet right after wards. I noticed that I feel like I'm walking on eggshells sometimes, and sometimes I feel distressed even when I'm at work or hanging out with my friends. How can I suggest that we go in for counseling together?
Dr. Robert R. Farra (NorthShore)
You can gently bring your concerns to his attention and let him know you don't want to live this way. Couple therapy can be very effective.

Dr. Robert R. Farra (NorthShore) - 12:59 PM:
I’d like to thank everyone for participating. If you have additional questions, please do not hesitate to contact your Primary Care Provider or Mental Health Professional.

Kristin Philbin (Moderator) - 12:59 PM:
Thank you everyone for participating in the chat. A transcript of the complete chat will be available shortly and more information about depression and treatment options can be found on ENH's website.

This chat has ended.

Thank you very much for your participation.