, Volume 13, Issue 1, pp 57-59

Classification issues in women’s mental health: clinical utility and etiological mechanisms

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It is now well known that significant anatomical and functional differences exist between male and female brains (e.g., Becker et al. 2007). Many sex differences with respect to mental disorders also have long been noted. For example, compared to men, women show overall higher rates of mood and anxiety disorders; a later onset of illness for the severe and persistent disorders of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, but no difference in overall prevalence; more rapid cycling in bipolar disorder; and lower overall rates of substance abuse but faster escalation to addiction (Becker and Hu 2008). For the most part, however, these differences have been considered in terms of such parametric aspects as age of onset, severity, and course, rather than any fundamental differences in the nature of the psychopathology or pathophysiology.

A major exception to this view has come from disorders, or features of disorders, that are unique to women—those related to the menstrual cycle, pregnancy and chi