Written by Dr. Gayatri Krishnan, MD Anaesthesiology | 
Medically Reviewed by Dr. Sunil Shroff, MBBS, MS, FRCS (UK), D. Urol (Lond) on Sep 06, 2014

Biology of Stress Management

When confronted by a stressful situation, the body activates the ‘stress circuit’, known in medical parlance as the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal axis. This system is the body’s “event manager”, sending off signals to the various glands to secrete the necessary hormones and neurotransmitters that prepare us for ‘fight or flight’.

When men and women are exposed to the same neuro-transmitters in the brain, the response is very different, e.g men experiencing low levels of serotonin in the brain, become impulsive whereas the fair sex becomes depressed.

  • There are other studies, which show that different parts of the brain are activated when faced with the same problem in the case of men and women. When sixteen men were asked to solve a problem, it was found that the blood flow to the prefrontal cortex of the brain increased, whereas when sixteen women were asked to solve the same problem, the limbic cortex showed an increased blood flow.
  • The activation also lasted longer in the case of men but it was stronger in the women.
  • The men also had a greater increase in the level of cortisol-the stress hormone, whereas the women showed less of a cortisol rise.

Feminine Touch vs. Masculine Brawn

  • It has been observed that women use emotion-focused coping, seeking social support in times of difficulty, whereas, when a man is stressed he uses problem-focused coping. For example, a woman may speak to her near and dear ones, vent her feelings and seek suggestions from them as to how to solve her problem.
  • Yet another woman may solve her problems herself by using positive self-talk or merely seek solace by reaching out to others.
  • It has been acknowledged that men talk less in times of difficulty, and some escape from the problem by taking recourse to smoking or drinking. Some may resort to driving too fast or to other violent activities. Men would seldom admit to a headache or backache.
  • Men indulge in watching their favorite game or sport to cope with stress, while women prefer arts, social and cultural activities.


  1. Psychological review July 2000
  2. Science daily Nov 2007

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