Background: It has been proposed that aggression and especially anger attacks play an important role in the symptomatology of depression. Furthermore, it has been hypothesized that these symptoms are more prevalent in males than in females. Methods: We conducted a study in 217 depressed patients (104 females, 113 males) without psychiatric comorbidity using questionnaires. Study subjects had previously been treated as inpatients and were contacted after discharge from hospital by mail or phone. Overall response rate was 69.6%. Patients were asked to retrospectively rate their state during their last depression. Results: Males obtained higher scores on irritability (p = 0.010) and showed a tendency to overreact (p = 0.018) during their last depressive episode. They had suffered significantly more often from anger attacks than female patients (4.3 ± 7.52 versus 1.2 ± 2.97 anger attacks per month; p = 0.001). Further multivariate analyses displayed that men had significantly lower impulse control and more frequently showed symptomatic substance intake and hyperactive behavior during their depression, whereas women suffered more often from hypersomnia and heaviness in limbs (p < 0.0001). Conclusion: Our findings are indicative of gender differences in symptoms related to lowered impulse control in depressed patients. Further study is required to replicate and extend our results and to assess the significance of aggression as a gender-specific diagnostic criterion for depression.
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