Coping With Stress
Why are some women more vulnerable to depression?
When dealing with something stressful, people can cope in a variety of different ways. A common distinction between coping styles is approach vs. avoidance. Approach copinginvolves forms of coping in which people actually try to do something about the problem, such as behaviors like seeking guidance and support and thoughts involving logical problem solving. Avoidance coping involves forms of coping in which people do not really do anything about the problem, such as behaviors like yelling and screaming and thoughts involving denial of the problem.
Research has shown that women tend to be more vulnerable to depression and that society tends to socialize women to be more passive. Consequently, because cognitive avoidance coping (i.e., the type of avoidance coping involving thoughts) is the most passive coping style, women may be more vulnerable to depression because they rely more on cognitive avoidance coping. Researchers at the University of Texas and Florida State University recently explored this issue.
What was the research about?
One hundred and seventy-nine undergraduate students completed questionnaires measuring coping styles, stress, depression, and anxiety on two separate occasions that were 3 weeks apart. They found that higher levels of stress predicted more anxiety and depression among women who used more cognitive avoidance coping than among women who used other forms of coping more. This effect was not found for men.
Why should it matter to me?
Women who rely on cognitive avoidance coping may be able to handle stress better and avoid negative consequences like anxiety and depression if they try to use other types of coping styles more. For example, instead of trying to pretend that problems don't exist, such women might be better off if they try to seek guidance and support from others.
Source: Blalock, J. A., & Joiner, T. E., Jr. (2000). Interaction of cognitive avoidance coping and stress in predicting depression/anxiety. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 24, 47-65.