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Differences between genders often become the basis for discussion of many sociological issues. Mental health problems are studies from this perspective as well. Many researchers investigate the types of problems that women and men have in their life experiences. One of the themes that sociologists are interested in is the idea of gender disparity in upbringing and its effect on one’s mental health. By producing gender differences, definitions of masculinity and femininity may significantly affect one’s psychological state and affect one’s mental health.
Definitions and Disorders
Definitions that people create for themselves in order to create a form of understanding for any pattern or object often shape one’s experience with this object. For example, the definitions of femininity and masculinity affect people’s attitudes toward certain behaviors and actions. Thus, by presenting the ideas of feminine and masculine behaviors to different individuals, society attempts to shape their personalities, which may lead to various outcomes.
Thus, women and men may experience such aspects of their lives as building social relationships, dealing with vulnerabilities, and creating coping mechanisms differently. Moreover, people may be affected by stressors unique to their gender. According to Hill and Needham (2013), women experience more affective disorders such as depression and anxiety, which deal with one’s performance, while men are considered to have more behavioral disorders such as antisocial anxiety disorder or substance abuse. However, researchers note that these propositions are not based on viable research as various studies yield mixed results (Hill and Needham 2013). Thus, it is possible to assume that people of both genders may encounter problems connected to performance and behavior.
Response to Stressors
Experiencing various disorders and stressors may also mean that people act in different ways according to their gender and social upbringing. However, while many people believe that men and women respond differently to stress, some studies suggest that ways of coping may be the same for both genders. For example, Hill and Needham (2013) write that men and women often respond to stressful conditions in a number of ways, including psychological distress and substance abuse. While some researchers show that men are more likely to choose substance abuse in stressful conditions, other scholars find that substance abuse is more strongly associated with women.
These studies are based on beliefs of fundamental differences between women and men, which often guide researchers to their conclusions. For instance, Rogers and Pilgrim (2014) write that the concept of gender bias may affect one’s perception of mental health and significantly influence one’s understanding of it. In fact, the authors argue that the over-representation of females in research affects both women and men, influencing the diagnoses for people of both genders.
Thus, some diagnoses may be attributed to men more often than to women, while others are predominantly associated with female individuals. For instance, Rogers and Pilgrim (2014) highlight that such diagnoses as anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa are overwhelmingly female. In fact, these two diagnoses may be connected to modern society’s definition of femininity. The visual representation of femininity becomes a unique stressor that affects women’s mental health.
The notion that femininity and masculinity as concepts may significantly affect one’s understanding of mental health is supported by various evidence. While various studies cannot confirm the idea of gender disparity in people’s responses to emotional stressors, diagnoses stay gendered in many situations. Thus, it is possible to assume that an individual’s behavior may be affected by these concepts on personal and societal levels. The mental health of people of both genders is influenced by their upbringing as well as the ideas of individuals that surround them.
Hill, Terrence D., and Belinda L. Needham. 2013. “Rethinking Gender and Mental Health: A Critical Analysis of Three Propositions.” Social Science & Medicine 93(2013):83-91.
Rogers, Anne, and David Pilgrim. 2014. A Sociology of Mental Health and Illness. 5th ed. London, UK: McGraw-Hill Education.