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Women's Health

Why Men and Women Handle Stress Differently

When it comes to handling stress, men are from Venus and women are from Mars. Why do their coping skills differ?
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Managing Stress

When it comes to managing stress, men and women just handle it differently. Take Amanda Ezmen and Andrew Flynn, for example. Both lead stressful lives, but both handle it in their own way.

"Managing stress is very different by sex," Pickhardt tells WebMD. "Women often seek support to talk out the emotional experience, to process what is happening and what might be done."

Whether its friends, family, or a support group, women like to tell their stories.

"Men often seek an escape activity to get relief from stress, to create a relaxing diversion, to get away," says Pickhardt.

Golfing is a common example of how men escape -- they're acting out their stressful energy in a challenging way while enjoying the companionship of other men. They typically, explains Pickhardt, don't take time out of a round of golf to discuss their feelings or stress amongst each other.

Stress and Evolution

For both sexes, stress has evolved from the days on the savannah when we were running for our lives. Now, it's mortgage payments and childcare that keep us up night after night.

"The single most important point to make is that stress has evolved from dealing with a single short-term crisis to the ability to turn stress on in a chronic way," says Sapolsky, author of Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers.

Unfortunately, because the hormonal result of stress is increased blood pressure and circulating blood sugar levels, and a less-effective immune system, chronic stress can lead to serious health problems.

"Men and women need to find ways to deal with chronic stress. This is not what the body has evolved for, and it can increase a person's risk of everything from heart disease to metabolic disorders to impaired wound healing," Sapolsky tells WebMD.

Dealing With Stress

In part 2 of this series, experts give WebMD tips on how men and women can better handle all the curveballs life throws at them. Here's a preview of what's to come:

"Managing stress from overdemand and inadequate self-maintenance is very simple, and so very complex," says Pickhardt. "Two little words are all it takes: 'No' and 'Yes.'"

1 | 2 | 3
Reviewed on June 06, 2005

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