Both men and women may need mental health treatment, but studies show that typical gender stereotyping can have an effect on treatment and diagnoses. Society dictates how males and females are viewed, and this view is often skewed. Women are typically seen as being emotional, overly-sensitive, and dependent. Men are seen as being strong, independent, and less emotional than women. According to Michael’s House, “a study published by Purdue and Northwestern Universities found that gender stereotypes effected the way people responded to others’ mental illnesses. Respondents read case summaries of mental illnesses whose symptoms were stereotypically associated with either women or men. Men are more likely to be stereotyped as violent, which is often linked to something like alcohol abuse. While women are more likely to be stereotyped as dependent, which is more closely linked to issues like depression.”
The reality is that women can be tough and independent and men can be emotional and dependent. Each sex may have a natural inclination to be one way, but that does not mean that everyone within that gender has those traits. Because of this confusion, women and men who are not stereotypical may be wrongfully diagnosed as needing mental health treatment, and those who actually need treatment may be overlooked. As an example, a woman who seems anxious and tearful may be brushed off as being emotional or too sensitive, whereas she could be suffering from depression and anxiety. A man’s irritability or angry outbursts associated with bipolar disorder, may be overlooked because he is seen as being confident in expressing himself.
Confusion around gender stereotypes and mental health can also result in people failing to seek out help for themselves. They may find themselves wondering if they are overreacting to their state of mind, if it seems typical of their gender. They may just accept their state of mind as normal, when it may be just the opposite. The stereotypes surrounding gender makes it difficult for men and women to fully be themselves if who they are does not fit neatly into society’s expectations. Because of this, it is important for men and women to learn to express themselves fully regardless of whether or not it fits into what others believe they should be.
As always, it is important to reach out to a professional if you believe you have a mental health issue, and even if you are just having difficulty fully expressing who you are as a person. Don’t hesitate to reach out for the help that you need. Counselors can offer non-judgmental assistance as you navigate who you are and how your emotions, behaviors or thoughts are impacting your world and your relationships. Processing your thoughts and emotions in a safe, non-judgmental space, is one of the greatest aspects of counseling!