Clinically depressed women are more likely than depressed men to see themselves as anxious, self-conscious and vulnerable, say researchers at the University of Toronto and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH). There are two general measures of personality traits exhibited by people with depression: sociotropy and autonomy, explains U of T psychiatry professor Michael Bagby, clinical research director at CAMH and co-author of a study published in the January issue of Personality and Individual Differences. Those who are sociotropic, mostly women, are concerned, for instance, about maintaining close relationships and may become depressed after experiencing an interpersonal failure or loss. Autonomous individuals, mostly men, are excessively concerned with their sense of self-worth, based on achievement and control, so loss of a job can trigger depression.
Bagby, along with co-authors Carolina McBride of CAMH and Jason Bacchiochi of the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the U of T, administered psychological tests in 2003 to 320 clinically depressed patients (118 men, 202 women) to determine if there were any personality differences between female and male patients among sociotropic and autonomous participants.
The researchers found that sociotropic women saw themselves as extremely anxious, depressed, self-conscious and vulnerable whereas men saw themselves as hostile. For instance, a highly sociotropic man experiencing the breakup of a relationship is more likely to become angry, says Bagby. A woman, on the other hand, may be more depressed and feel vulnerable about the loss. The researchers found no personality differences between men and women who exhibited autonomous traits.
Personality needs to be considered when treating patients with depression, says Bagby. “You want to focus on women’s feelings of self-consciousness and vulnerability whereas with men, you should focus on their sense of being angry or hostile about a perceived loss.” The study was funded by the Ontario Mental Health Foundation.