Last Updated on September 29, 2023 by Reiner Chase
Men and women handle stress differently due to biological, social, and cultural factors. For example, men have higher levels of testosterone, which can lead to more aggressive and reactive behavior under stress. Women have higher levels of estrogen and progesterone, which can lead to more emotional and withdrawal behavior under stress.
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Why Do Men And Women Handle Stress Differently?
Scientific and sociological research over the years have shown that men and women handle stress differently. Varied reasons account for these differences, and understanding them will not only foster healthier personal relationships but also guide better interventions for stress management. Here’s a detailed look at why:
Men: Testosterone, a dominant hormone in males, helps to promote the ‘Fight or Flight’ response during stressful situations.
Women: On the other hand, the primary female hormone, estrogen, encourages the ‘Tend and Befriend’ response, which pushes women towards caring for others and seeking social support under stress.
Brain Structure and Function
Men: The amygdala in men is more active than in women during stress, resulting in a more reactive response.
Women: The prefrontal cortex, responsible for thoughtful actions and decision-making, is more active in women, leading to a more empathetic and supportive response.
Men: Sociocultural norms often encourage men to be stoic and manage their stress independently. This often leads to isolation or a more aggressive response to stress.
Women: Women, on the other hand, are often encouraged to express their feelings and seek community support, which often results in more collaborative solutions to stress.
Men: Men tend to vent out their stress through physical activities like sports, exercise, or even aggressive behaviors. They also lean more towards problem-solving or diverting attention from the stressor.
Women: Women often deal with stress by talking about it with friends and family, writing in a journal, or engaging in quiet activities such as reading or meditating.
Men: From an evolutionary perspective, men’s ‘Fight or Flight’ response equips them to deal with immediate threats or challenges.
Women: Conversely, the ‘Tend and Befriend’ response in women ensures the survival of their offspring and promotes group cohesion for mutual protection.
|Brain Structure||More reactive amygdala||More active prefrontal cortex|
|Social Conditioning||Encouraged to be stoic||Encouraged to seek support|
|Coping Mechanisms||Physical activities, problem solving||Talking, quiet activities|
|Evolution||‘Fight or Flight’||‘Tend and Befriend’|
Risk Factors for Stress in Men and Women
Women are more likely than men to experience stress-related conditions such as anxiety, migraine, depression, insomnia, panic, post-traumatic stress disorders, chronic pain, and autoimmune diseases, among others.
Men, on the other hand, have higher chances of contracting infectious diseases and hypertension, which can lead to cardiovascular disease. A man is also more likely to abuse alcohol, and drugs, as well as show aggressive behaviour.
The percentage of women who say they are stressed is higher than that of men. A survey by the American Psychological Association (APA) shows that 37% of women as compared to 31% of men say they are stressed. Women report higher stress levels and say they felt like crying at some point, as well as feeling anxious, nervous, sad, or fatigued.
Although both men and women have similar causes of stress such as money and work-related issues, they handle stress differently. Why then is this the case? This article looks at the reasons for this discrepancy.
Why Men Respond Differently to Stress than Women
Research has shown that one of the main reasons why genders respond differently is hormones. Men tend to react to stress by producing cortisol and adrenaline hormones which create the ‘fight or flight’ response. Physical changes like increased heart rate characterize this reaction. You may also get sweaty palms resulting in an impulse to fight or run away from the source of stress.
Besides producing cortisol and adrenaline hormones, the women’s bodies also produce oxytocin which is a chemical that promotes bonding and affection for others. Although men also produce this chemical, it is at lower levels. Women respond to stress by tending and befriending, whereby they seek to protect others in their lives as well as reaching for social connection and support.
There are other hormones such as testosterone and estrogen, that may also contribute to the stress response. Research is ongoing on gender-specific genes like SRY that are found in men and which are linked to the fight or flight response. Other factors, such as social or cultural, may also play a role in how women respond to stress. Ladies may be concerned about holding slow-status jobs, or care-giving.
The other factor that affects the way men and women respond to stress is demand and energy. Men are known to build their self-esteem around the adequacy of performance, while women’s self-esteem is built around relationships. A woman may sometimes let other people’s needs determine her limits while ignoring her own. In the process, the self-sacrifice in relationships leads a woman to stress.
Men, on the other hand, let challenge and competition set the pace for them. They allow their rival’s efforts or the plan of their employer to set the level of their demand. They may eventually lose the focus on the self and preoccupy themselves with winning or attaining an extrinsic objective. The determination to obtain a winning performance drives most men to stress.
How Men and Women Handle Stress
The most significant stressors for men and women are performance failure and relationship loss, respectively. Men and women manage this stress differently. Women will most likely manage stress by seeking support to speak out about their emotional experiences. They try to figure out what is happening and what might be done.
Women may look out to family, friends, or support groups and tell their stories with the hope of getting help.
Men will, on the other hand, seek an escape activity to alleviate stress. They will tend to create a relaxing diversion to run away from what is troubling them. Sports activities such as golfing, help men to act out their stressful energy in a more challenging manner while enjoying the company of other men.
Men will not discuss their feelings or stress among themselves but spend their time in these sports. They may also listen to music to wade off stressful thoughts.
Some women may tend to eat as a way of managing stress, and they are likely to over-eat or eat unhealthy foods. They will eat more food, unlike men.
Studies have shown that sometimes both men and women may tend to manage stress in similar ways such as exercising or walking. However, women may prefer activities that connect them with others, such as going to church and spending time with friends or family.
What Doctors Recommend
Doctors recommend that when feeling stressed, you should eat a healthy diet, engage in exercise, and maintain a healthy weight. You should also perform relaxing activities such as meditation and yoga, keep a positive attitude, avoid excess caffeine, and quit smoking if you do.
You should also frequently visit your doctor and ask any questions or discuss how to manage your stress. If the pressure is causing you physical or emotional harm, the doctor can recommend the best ways to handle it. You can both work out a stress management plan that will benefit your overall health and well-being.
Both men and women may report a lack of willpower to make lifestyle and behavior changes that their healthcare providers recommend. Women give the lack willpower to change their eating habits and look at getting more energy and confidence as what would help them in their ability to improve.
Men would barely say they need encouragement from friends to strengthen their willpower. They will say they need more money to improve their willpower while women will talk about getting more time.
Women will speak of having more help with household activities for them to advance in their way of handling stress.
Regardless of whether you are a woman or man, or the cause of your weight, you should strive to overcome it to avoid life-threatening illnesses. Managing stress is more comfortable than treating conditions such as depression and heart disease which may be a result of stress.