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

Men are from Mars, women are from Venus

John Gray, in his famous book points out the different ways in which men and women approach a problem and tackle a stressful situation. According to Gray, men tend to become withdrawn and reflective when confronted with a critical problem, while women tend to reach out, connect with others and seek support from others during a crisis. A man would unwind after a hard day’s work by watching a football game or an action movie, whereas a woman would want to talk about it and probably seek advice and suggestions from peers. While women can multi-task simultaneously, a man needs to focus on the one problem at hand and sort it out before moving on to the next one. They operate at different wavelengths in times of difficulty. A man may cope with the situation with pragmatism, while a woman may tackle it emotionally.

Adam and Eve

Researchers in the United States have found that when men are exposed to stress, they respond with the “fight or flight” response, whereas women exhibit the ‘tend and befriend’ response.

The biochemical basis for this was found to be that when women were exposed to stress they secrete the hormone oxytocin that would lead them to maternal behavior and affiliation, whereas the same hormone in men would lead to aggression.

Oxytocin in women is naturally secreted during lactation of a young one and it also aids in the process of childbirth. At times of stress it is believed to have a calming and relaxing effect leading to a less anxious and more social bent of mind. This is also facilitated by another female hormone called estrogen acting along with oxytocin.

On the other hand in males, oxytocin reacts with the male hormone testosterone causing a reversal of the oxytocin effect of calming, making the men full of beans and raring to go.

This response has been thought to have an evolutionary basis because the hunter-seeker man had to face threats from predators. The pregnant women or those with very young children could not adopt the ‘fight or flight’ method in times of difficulty, so they depended on a social response by forming support groups.


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

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