Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry

, Volume 40, Issue 1, pp 59–73 | Cite as

An Illness of Power: Gender and the Social Causes of Depression

  • Alex B. NeitzkeEmail author
Original Paper


There is considerable discourse surrounding the disproportionate diagnosis of women with depression as compared to men, often times cited at a rate around 2:1. While this disparity clearly draws attention to gender, a focus on gender tends to fall away in the study and treatment of depression in neuroscience and psychiatry, which largely understand its workings in mechanistic terms of brain chemistry and neurological processes. I first consider how this brain-centered biological model for depression came about. I then argue that the authoritative scientific models for disorder have serious consequences for those diagnosed. Finally, I argue that mechanistic biological models of depression have the effect of silencing women and marginalizing or preventing the examination of social-structural causes of depression, like gender oppression, and therein contribute to the ideological reproduction of oppressive social relations. I argue that depression is best understood in terms of systems of power, including gender, and where a given individual is situated within such social relations. The result is a model of depression that accounts for the influence of biological, psychological, and social factors.


Depression Gender Biopsychosocial Relations of power Feminist psychology 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

Alex Neitzke declares that he has no conflict of interest.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA

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