Why does depression bear a woman’s name?

The incidence of depression in women is currently twice that of men. What are the causes of this increased incidence? The psychiatrist Marian Rojas Estapé told us about this causal relationship during the last conference of the IWILL women’s platform at the IESE campus in Barcelona.

The causes of this major difference vary greatly. It starts with biology. The hormones and endocrine system are different between men and women and operate differently in the different stages of a woman’s life: childhood, puberty, reproductive age, pregnancy, premenstrual syndrome and menopause.

Women depression leadership
Melancholy, Edgar Degas

Speaking of the differences and complementarity between men and women, she told us how women tend toward unity and men tend toward separation; how women, in order to resolve conflicts, need to talk and feel loved while men need to isolate themselves and feel needed.

Second are the psychological factors: lifestyle, studies, professional level, number of children

Thirdly we have sociocultural causes, since the current role of women in society and culture has changed considerably. In the 21st century, women are subjected to tremendous pressure to be good professionals and, at the same time, be diligent at work while caring for their family. Rojas said that men tend to have linear careers whereas women, at some point in their lives, must stop, take care of themselves and take care of the family to hold things together.

She also emphasized the importance of the emotional bond created before the age of 2. Even though at that stage we are not capable of forming memories, as the hippocampus is not yet active, there is a structure that stores emotions and, based on how we are loved, substances are secreted in the body for better or for worse, which have a lasting impact on our adulthood. The first few months of a person’s life are fundamental for their development. So the recommendation is to promote healthy affection with newborns, without smothering or overprotecting the babies.

Women often fall into the extreme of perfectionism, being worried about everything and feeling eternally unsatisfied, because everything could always be improved. In some cases, this trend can become an obsessive disorder.

She urged us to think positively, reminding us that 90% of the things we worry about basically never happen . By thinking positively or negatively we secrete the same substances in our minds (and then in our bodies) as if what we were thinking about were really happening. For this reason, the recommendation is to control negative thoughts if we want avoid getting sick from too much cortisol, which causes arthritis and gastritis among other negative effects for the organism, resulting from a drop in the immune system.

So, let’s think positively!

About Nuria Chinchilla

Nuria Chinchilla is professor in the Managing People in Organizations Department and director of the International Center on Work and Family (ICWF). An economist and lawyer by training, she holds a Ph.D. in Management from IESE. Her areas of specialization include women and power, family-responsible organizations managerial competencies, career and time management, interpersonal conflict and not-for-profit organizations. In 1984, she became a full-time member of IESE's faculty. Prof. Chinchilla is a business and government consultant and member of several Boards such as the VIP Board of European Professional Women's Network (EPWN).