Do men and women handle stress the same? Though at first thought you would be inclined to believe so, the fact is that the way the genders handle stress couldn’t be any more different.
However, have you ever thought about what exactly accounts for the differences?
Didn’t think so, but doing it can vastly increase your understanding of how to deal with someone of the opposite gender under a lot of stress and be a pillar of support.
Without further ado, let’s dive into the complex world of stress.
Stress Reactions In Men
If you are a woman living with your partner, or just have a boyfriend, one thing is almost universally true; under stress men tend to retreat or attack. Just think about it; when men are under high stress situations, they desire to be alone, or are on edge and flip out over simple things.
Over time, researchers have been able to pin down the source of these responses in men to a particular gene known as SRY, which until recently was believed to only be important for development of male genitals while in the womb.
To put into perspective, the SRY gene reacts to stress by forcing the male body to produce more catecholamines, substances such as adrenalin and cortisol, and that are known to set the stage for the famous “fight or flight” response. Therefore, when faced with stress, you either get as far away from it as possible, or effectively attack it.
Think of a man who is being accosted by a robber with a gun in an alleyway; he will attempt to either run away as fast as possible, or disarm the perpetrator. Yes, it is risky. However, it one of the dumb ways men are programmed!
Part of the response to stress in men is also attributed to levels of androgen in the blood, with men who have higher blood levels possessing higher levels of aggression.
Stress Reactions In Women
In stark contrast, a women’s primary response to stress is not to fight or flee, but rather to “fix”. If you’re a man and reading this, or a woman, you should be aware of the way that things are done. Classically, women elicit more of the emotional and psychological parts of their brain, looking for a logical outcome to the situation.
Let us consider the same analogy of being accosted by a man with a gun in an alleyway. Women will not just run away or attack the perpetrator (well, at least most of the times) but will try to appeal to his sense of reasoning.
It will not be uncommon to plead with the robber by stating your kids dependence on you, or that you are pregnant and let me go and I won’t call the cops etc. why?
Because women try to befriend as a means to solve a conflict.
In contrast to men, the primary response of the body is not to produce more cortisol and adrenalin, but rather oxytocin and other endorphins, that seek to alter moods and bonding.
While men and women may inherently experience the same changes eventually (changes to blood pressure, heart rate etc.) the initial responses are quite different.
Women become more emotional in an attempt to elicit empathy, while men attempt to just get away from the source of the stress (by either fleeing or elimination).
Hormonal difference does play a big part, as women with higher than normal testosterone levels may experience role reversal, as do men with abnormally high estrogen load.
Learn how to deal with the opposite gender, and offer support so that they feel their response is ok and not wrong and everyone will be happy.