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Stress Makes Women Nicer, Men Meaner. We all feel stressed from time to time, but the situations that get under your skin and the way you react to them may depend on your sex.

“There does seem to be a difference in how men and women react to stress, both on a behavioral and hormonal level,” says Sarah Nagle-Yang, MD. Overall, women get more anxious about personal relationships and family, while men tend to worry about on-the-job issues.

Hormones play an important role in how men and women respond to stress. Both men and women release cortisol – sometimes called the stress hormone – when confronting a stressful situation.

“Your body reacts in many different ways to this cortisol surge,” Dr. Nagle-Yang says. Cortisol creates a “fight or flight” response in your body. It signals that the situation you are in requires increased focus, strength, stamina and alertness.

Another hormone released during stressful situations is oxytocin.

“While both men and women have an increase in oxytocin, this increase is much larger in women,” she says.

Oxytocin is a hormone known for its role in social bonding, like the connection between a mother and her baby. Whereas cortisol produces a fight or flight response, oxytocin brings out a “tend and befriend” response. This may help to make women nicer and men meaner–at least in the short term.

“Behaviorally, some studies have shown that women tend to deal with moderate amounts of stress by becoming more nurturing, while men are more likely to cope with stress by searching for an outlet like sports or music,” Dr. Nagle-Yang says.

Stress is a natural biological and psychological response to a perceived threat or challenge, but when it becomes severe and chronic, it can wreak havoc on your health.

Some of the health problems that can plague both men and women are:

  • Weakened immune system
  • Muscle tension
  • Severe insomnia
  • High blood pressure
  • Obesity
  • Depression
  • Anxiety

“If we listen to what our body is telling us, we can take proactive steps to put things back in balance. Often, cutting back on outside commitments, maintaining relationships and incorporating exercise into our weekly routines are some examples of ways to practice stress management,” she says.

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