Does Stress Affect Men Differently?
Stress affects us all. You may notice symptoms of stress when you have to meet deadlines at work, managing your finances or coping with a challenging relationship. While a little stress is okay, too much stress over long periods of time can take a toll on your mental and physical health.
What Is Stress?
When the pressures around a person (related to work, family, relationships, finances, etc.) hamper their ability to cope with them, it is known as stress. Stress, however, is of two types: Eustress, which is considered beneficial stress that pushes people to achieve their goals and Distress, which is considered to be unhelpful or damaging stress, too much of which leads to mental and physical problems in a person.
Does Stress Affect Men and Women Differently?
A study published in the July 2000 issue of Psychological Review states that although men and women are both exposed to stress, they both handle stress differently. This is largely attributed to hormonal differences between the two genders. When stressed, the hormones cortisol, epinephrine, and oxytocin are released in the bloodstream. Cortisol and epinephrine are responsible for elevated blood pressure and blood sugar levels and a decrease in the effectiveness of the immune system. Oxytocin is released from the brain, countering the production of cortisol and epinephrine, and promoting nurturing and relaxing emotions.
Higher quantities of oxytocin and it’s special ability to bind with other reproductive hormones in women are reasons why women deal with stress by tending and nurturing themselves. Men, on the other hand, produce lesser levels of oxytocin, which results in several men partaking in the fight or flight mechanism. This is different from the reaction women have, resulting in many men bottling up the stress or finding ways to escape their problems altogether.
Unfortunately, for both men and women, the hormonal results of stress lead to an increase in blood pressure, circulating blood sugar levels, and a less effective immune system. When stress becomes chronic it can also lead to serious health problems.
How Does Stress Affect Men?
Although stress affects both men and women equally, the difference in the coping mechanisms is what leads to higher stress levels in men. Stress can affect all aspects of life for a man, including emotions, behaviours, cognitive abilities, and physical health. Although stress can be subjective, the symptoms and management of which can vary from person to person, chronic stress can take a toll on your health. It is important to discuss with your doctor if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- Emotional Symptoms:
- Extreme mood swings
- Becoming agitated or overwhelmed easily
- Losing control over emotions
- Anxious, racing thoughts in your mind
- Low self-esteem
- Physical Symptoms
- Decrease in energy levels
- Constant headaches
- Stomach issues, including diarrhoea, constipation, and nausea
- Unexplained muscle aches and tears
- Frequent cold and flu
- Chest pain and increased heart rate
- Loss of sexual drive
- Nervousness and shaking in stressful situations
- Cold and sweaty hands and feet
- Dry mouth
- Grinding teeth or clenched jaw out of nervousness
- Cognitive Symptoms
- Constant worrying
- Forgetfulness and being disorganised
- Inability to focus
- Overtly pessimistic
- Behavioural Symptoms
- Change in appetite
- Procrastinating and avoiding responsibilities
- Increased use of drugs, cigarettes, or alcohol
- Exhibiting nervous behaviours such as pacing, nail-biting, and fidgeting
What Are The Longterm Effects of Stress?
Being a little stressed is not a serious issue and can usually be resolved by being aware of your stressors and finding ways to manage them. However, ongoing, chronic stress can give rise to many serious health problems that include:
- Mental health problems, such as chronic depression, anxiety, and personality disorders
- Cardiovascular diseases, such as coronary heart disease, hypertension, arrhythmias, and heart attacks
- Sexual dysfunctional problems, such as impotence and premature ejaculation
- Dermatological and Trichological problems, such as acne, psoriasis, eczema, excessive or permanent hair loss
- Gastrointestinal problems, such as Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), gastritis, ulcerative colitis, and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
- Weakened immune system, making you more susceptible to infections and diseases
Can Stress Be Managed?
Yes. If you find yourself stressing over minute issues, it’s time to explore stress management strategies, such as:
- Regular physical activities
- Relaxation techniques, including deep breathing, meditation, yoga, or tai chi.
- Socialising with friends and family
- Investing time in hobbies and other recreational activities.
Apart from partaking in stress-relieving activities, it is also crucial to get plenty of sleep and eat a healthy, balanced diet. It is best to avoid or reduce the intake of tobacco and alcohol. Despite taking these measures, if you still find it difficult to manage your stress, see your doctor or a professional counsellor. Your doctor or a counsellor will be able to check for any potential causes and identify sources to help you manage your stress in a more successful manner.