Feeling down during the holidays can be tough, especially since you seem so
out of step with the world. Everyone else seems to be beaming, ruddy-cheeked,
bursting with holiday spirit. You’re feeling wretched and exhausted.
But here’s something to cheer you up the next time you’re stuck in a room of
revelers at a holiday party: Plenty of them are probably unhappy, too.
“I think a lot of people would say that the holidays are the worst time of
the year,” says Ken Duckworth, MD, medical director...
"This is true across all countries, all cultures, all
income levels, across all levels of success -- women have higher rates of
depression," says Myrna M. Weissman, PhD, an epidemiologist and psychiatry
professor at Columbia University School of Medicine in New York.
"Before puberty, rates of depression are about equal
between boys and girls," she tells WebMD. "At puberty, the rates
skyrocket in girls. There are men who suffer from depression, but not anything
near the rate in women."
In 1999, Surgeon General David Satcher, MD, noted these same
rates in his report on mental health. Although women have more opportunities
than ever before, they still fight a bigger battle against depression, anxiety,
and other mental health problems.
Under the Skull
Using sophisticated brain imaging, researchers have found that
men's and women's brains are indeed built differently.
In one study, a group of researchers found that men's brains
synthesize more of the mood-lifting brain chemical serotonin than women's
brains do -- 52% more.
Men and women also respond to antidepressant medications
differently. Some antidepressant drugs work better for men while others may
prove to be more beneficial for women.
For women, antidepressant drugs that affect serotonin, like
Prozac, Paxil, and Zoloft, work better, reports Susan G. Kornstein, MD, head of
the outpatient psychiatry clinic at the Virginia Commonwealth University.
Serotonin found primarily in a brain region called the
amygdala, where emotions are processed, explains Stephan Hamann, PhD, a
psychology researcher at Emory University in Atlanta.
This is the "fight-or-flight" center of the brain, the
region that registers anxiety, fear, joy, stress, even lust, he says.
Emotional Secrets of the Amygdala
The amygdala is an almond-shaped area of the brain that
controls emotion. In adulthood, the size of a man's amygdala doesn't differ
much from a woman's. However, recent studies have found that when men and women
look at photographs, they register the memory on opposite sides of the