Stress: How Men and Women Respond Differently

Stress may affect both men and women, but that doesn’t mean that each gender reacts to stress similarly. When it comes to making decisions while experiencing stress, men tend to act more impulsively and take bigger risks, while women take a slower, more cautious approach.

In a recent study, researchers set out to discover how men and women’s brains react while under stress. Although both genders handled ordinary tasks fairly similarly, stress became more of a variable when decision-making came into play. Men made decisions much more quickly, also taking more risks, which resulted in earning more rewards. On the other hand, women were hesitant to make snappy decisions while feeling stressed, thus earning fewer rewards over the same period of time.

Throughout these experiments, researchers used brain scans to determine precisely how the subjects’ brains were working at these moments. Men and women’s brains acted most similarly in the points when they were not under stress. Once stress was introduced, however, it was clear from the decisions that each gender’s mind was behaving differently. Unfortunately, the brain scans were unable to pinpoint how or why the brain was responding dissimilarly.

Decision-making isn’t the only gender difference when it comes to stress: another study finds that women become more emotionally needy and men grow distant while facing anxiety. Because of this opposing emotional response, and because men tend to act brashly and women are wary of acting brashly, it might be best for both men and women to not make any decisions while experiencing stress — particularly with each other.

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