Stress can be defined as a real or interpreted threat to the physiological or psychological integrity of an individual that results in physiological and behavioral responses. For example, in some Eastern cultures, stress has been viewed as an absence of inner peace, while in Western culture, stress is viewed as a loss of control by some.
Do Men and Women Respond Differently to Stress?
Men and women tend to react differently when they deal with stress both psychologically and biologically says, Dr. Joel Rosen. Gender is an important determinant of human health, and there seems to be a clear pattern for the sex-specific rates of various mental and physical disorders. For example, susceptibility to infectious diseases, hypertension, aggressive behavior, and drug abuse is generally observed to be higher in men, while conditions such as autoimmune diseases, chronic pain, depression, and anxiety disorders are relatively more prevalent among women. The observed male and female specific disease patterns may be partly attributed to the effects of sex hormones since some of these differences especially for women emerge generally during reproductive years and gradually diminish after menopause.
The Immune Response To Stress
He says there is a difference in the stress response exhibited by men and women. It is characterized by ‘fight-or-flight’ response in men and a nurturing side in women. The physiological stress response typically involves the activation of the sympathetic nervous system and the HPA axis in both genders. This response also tends to buffer the sympathetic and HPA activity in both genders. However, the stress response specifically builds on attachment caregiving tendencies in females.
Another difference is in the susceptibility of women and men to specific immunological disorders. This may suggest a gender dimorphism of the immune system. Men and women may present different immune symptoms by the way they respond to the Glucocorticoid (GC) sensitivity of pro-inflammatory cytokine production. The HPA axis can be stimulated by a wide variety of psychosocial and physiological stressors. This results in the secretion of GC’s and the activation of specific immune responses.
According to Dr. Joel Rosen stress can also be a potent activator of mast cell activity in both men and women. He says as we continuously learn about all the detriments of stress on the body it will be critical to the understanding of the impact of stress on men and women. These differences need to be studied further in order to have a better grasp of the gender differences that are observed in many disorders in men and women possibly due to stress reactivity and responses.
Can Stress Management Make a Difference In Our Health?
As we continue to look to research on this very important subject we need to take into consideration and to explore the determinants of the environmental influence on our reaction to stress. Dr. Rosen says, we need to develop strategies and methods that will help individuals deal more effectively with stress in their lives. For now, the key is monitoring stress using stress management tools such as meditation, deep breathing, exercise, and diet to help the body navigate the daily stressors of life.
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