Schizophrenia in Men and Women: What’s the Difference?
Schizophrenia in men and women has the same diagnostic criteria (DSM schizophrenia criteria), but differences are known between the genders. Schizophrenia in men tends to develop between the ages of 15-20 whereas for women, schizophrenia tends to develop between 20-25 years of age. Moreover, not only does schizophrenia in men occur earlier, men are often hit harder by the disease. Estrogen, a hormone found in greater amounts in women, may be protective against some of the effects of schizophrenia.1 (see also Schizophrenia Statistics)
Differences Between Schizophrenia in Men and Schizophrenia in Women
Delusions and hallucinations are the most well-known and generally prominent schizophrenia symptoms but other more subtle symptoms, like cognitive deficits, exist as well. Cognitive deficits represent any problem with the way a person is able to think.
In the case with schizophrenia in men, they tend to suffer more with the following symptoms:
- Lack of will and directed energy; a tremendous sense of inertia
- Inability to plan and complete things
- Making decisions
Men with schizophrenia may also react less positively to medication.
Because the symptoms of schizophrenia in women are less severe, women are more likely to:
- Hold down a job
Men tend to have more trouble with joblessness and homelessness.
Schizophrenia is more likely in women who have been born to mothers who have been exposed to a viral infection, whereas men with schizophrenia are more likely to be born where birth trauma is involved. Why there is a gender difference among these risk factors is unknown.2
Schizophrenia in Men’s and Women’s Brains
Many differences are known between the brains of those with schizophrenia and the general population, but it may also be that there are differences between the brains of men and women with schizophrenia.
Specifically, there is a structure called the inferior parietal lobule (IPL) that may hold a key. On the left, the IPL is involved in:
- Spatial relations
- Visual perception
On the right, the IPL is involved in:
- Perceiving where each body part is in relation to the others
- Reading facial expressions or posture
In healthy volunteers, men have a larger IPL and their left is larger than their right. In women, the reverse is true.
In schizophrenic men though, differences in IPL have been found. Men with schizophrenia have a smaller left IPL and large right. What’s more, the overall size of the IPL in men with schizophrenia is about 16% smaller than that of healthy men. This may partially explain why the IPL functional areas are negatively impacted in schizophrenia.3