Thursday, April 03, 2003

More on Chemical-related Gender Differences.

Got this as part of a advertising/newsletter email from here, so I need to explore the validity of the following statement and see if I can track down the referred-to report.

What makes women more vulnerable to stress?
The reasons stress affects women so negatively are both physical and situational.

Physical factors
Physically, when you're under stress, your body produces corticotrophin-releasing factor (CRF), a chemical that triggers the release of adrenaline and other brain chemicals. Women under stress secrete more of trigger chemicals like CRF than males in the same circumstances.

A report from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), published in the July 2000 edition of Psychological Review, states that the "fight or flight" response applies to men, not women. Women, the study claims, exhibit a very different reaction, what researchers call a "tend and befriend" response.

The report analyzed hundreds of biological and behavioral studies of responses to stress by thousands of animals and humans. It concluded that women under stress are apt to spend time nurturing their children or seek social interaction, especially with other women.

The study also identified a hormone called oxytocin, which has a calming effect on both animals and people. Oxytocin, researchers believe, prompts maternal behavior and socialization. In men, testosterone counteracts the soothing effects of oxytocin. But women's estrogen is believed to actually enhance oxytocin.

Situational factors
In our society, women are expected to do it all: succeed professionally, maintain a comfortable home, and care for our spouses and children. Conversely, men often are able to relax at home, leaving their work problems at the office.

What's more, women typically fill the role of caretakers. As we grow older, we often find ourselves sandwiched between children and parents, doing double duty as caretakers for both generations. This added responsibility only intensifies a woman's feelings of anxiety and overload.

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