Mental disorders and gender  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Gender is associated with certain mental disorders, including depression, anxiety and somatic complaints. Major depression is twice as common in women. The lifetime prevalence rate of alcohol dependence is more than twice as high in men, and men are more than three times as likely to be diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder. There are no marked gender differences in the diagnosis rates of serious psychological disorders like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Freud postulated that women were more prone to neurosis because women suffered from aggression towards the self, stemming from developmental issues. Freud's postulation is countered by the idea that societal factors may play a major role in the development of mental illness. Industrialization exacerbated the divide between work and home, pushing women further into the private sphere and men into the public sphere. This may have had important ramifications on gender roles and, in turn, the kind of mental illnesses that occurred most often in men vs. women. Other factors that contribute to the gender divide in mental illness include the pressure on men not to show their emotions and the fact that women, on average, have lower self esteem and sense of control than men. When certain factors, such as work outside the domestic sphere, are controlled, women and men tend towards a fuller range of mental illnesses at approximately equal rates. In some cases when such factors were controlled, women showed lower rates of mental illness on the whole.

The object relations theory postulates that because women are mostly responsible for parenting, mothers emphasize the importance of relationships to their daughters while pushing their sons into independence. Sarah Rosenfield uses this theory to argue that males and females develop different kinds of symptoms when they are mentally ill. Men display externalized symptoms, expressing problematic emotions in outward behavior. Women tend to develop internalized symptoms, where problematic feelings are directed towards the self. In accordance with the internalized-externalized dichotomy, women are more commonly diagnosed with mental illnesses such as anxiety, depression, phobias, and borderline personality disorder. Men more commonly experience substance abuse, antisocial disorders, and violence. Both men and women are more likely to be institutionalized if their diagnosis is not typical of their gender (Martha Lang, 2006).

When considering gender and mental illness, one must look to both biology and social/cultural factors to explain areas in which men and women develop different mental illnesses. Neurochemical and brain structure Sex differences as well as differing gender roles enforced by society can often lead to different expression of frustration with the system. This frustration often affects the mind and manifests according to its source. Learned behavior also comes into play; men and women learn different ways to channel their emotions and thus develop different emotional frustrations and ways of expressing these frustrations.

Popular culture, though usually an agent of enforcing gender norms, does not tend to depict the gender divide in mental illness. Rather, when it comes to fictional depictions in mass media, the tendency is toward whichever symptoms best add to the drama or humor of a film, television show, or story, regardless of whether or not these symptoms are usually expressed by people of a certain gender with a particular mental illness.

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Mental disorders and gender" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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