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Gender and Mental Illness 

Gender is a term that refers to an individual’s self-representation as male or female.  More than biological sex, gender is a complex set of biological, psychological, and behavioral processes.  These processes can influence the cause and development of mental disorders in a number of ways, including the following:

  • the prevalence of mental illness 
  • how symptoms are expressed
  • how well a patient is likely to respond to treatment

Women, for example, are twice as likely as men to be depressed, but they respond better than men overall to serotonin reuptake inhibitors, a form of medication commonly prescribed for depression.

Environmental factors, such as social support, economic status, and cultural expectations, differ by gender and may impact on an individual’s vulnerability to mental illness. Epidemiological studies suggest that women are more affected by marital discord than men, and that men are more likely to be affected by work-related stress. These trends may have as much to do with gender roles and experiences as with biological sex.

For the practicing clinician, a thorough understanding of the interplay between biological and sociocultural factors in the development of mental illness can lead to better identification of symptoms and improve treatment outcomes for both men and women.

Books on Gender and Mental Health

American Psychiatric Publishing (APPI), a division of the American Psychiatric Association, publishes books that address the unique mental health challenges faced by both men and women.

Age and Gender Considerations in Psychiatric Diagnosis: A Research Agenda for DSM-V

Age and Gender Considerations in Psychiatric Diagnosis: A Research Agenda for DSM-V identifies major gaps in our knowledge of how gender and age affect psychiatric diagnoses and makes specific recommendations for future research.

Textbook of Men's Mental Health

Textbook of Men's Mental Health provides clinicians with the information they need for understanding how certain disorders manifest differently in men—and for recognizing how treatment responses in men differ from those in women.

Clinical Manual of Women's Mental HealthClinical Manual of Women's Mental Health provides an evidence-based, multidisciplinary approach to the assessment and treatment of women with psychiatric disorders, with special attention to the effects of pregnancy, breast-feeding, and menopause.


View a complete listing of resources on gender-related concerns.