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His stress is not like her stress

Scientists puzzle over why men and women react differently to pressure

By
2:30pm, January 11, 2016
Illustration of stressed man and woman

HE STRESS, SHE STRESS  Men and women react differently to stress. Animal studies suggest the root of the difference is messaging within the brain.

Muscles tighten, the heart pounds and nausea takes hold: In the face of sudden stress, men and women respond alike. But when threats, scares or frustrations continue for days or months, differences between the sexes emerge.

Scientists have long known that women are more likely than men to suffer depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and other anxiety disorders, all of which have been linked to chronic stress, says Temple University psychologist Debra Bangasser. But until recently, studies of people’s responses to such stress have focused primarily on men.

Now, a growing number of scientists are studying what happens at the cellular and genetic levels in the brains of stressed-out rodents — male and female — to gain insight into the human brain. The studies are beginning to reveal differences between the sexes that may help explain the variability in their reactions and perhaps even provide much-needed insight into why stress-related

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