Men tend to respond to stress very differently and tend to have different types of stress-related disorders according to a new study. According to this research, men have a tendency to have greater rates of alcohol use disorders than women and women seem to have greater rates of depression and some types of anxiety disorders. This new study linking emotions to alcohol craving responses and stress, has found that men have a tendency to crave alcohol when becoming upset more frequently than women.
Tara M. Chaplin, associate research scientist at Yale University School of Medicine and the first author to the study reported, “We know that women and men respond to stress differently,” and continued by stating, “For example, following a stressful experience, women are more likely than men to say that they feel sad or anxious, which may lead to risk for depression and anxiety disorders. Some studies have found that men are more likely to drink alcohol following stress than women. If this becomes a pattern, it could lead to alcohol use disorders.”
As a part of a larger study, 54 healthy adult social drinkers (27 women, 27 men) were exposed to three different types of imagery scripts-stressful, alcohol-related, and neutral/relaxing in random order on separate days. Researchers then assessed participant’s subjective emotions, behavioral/bodily responses, heart rate and blood pressure and self-reported alcohol craving.
Chaplin stated, “After listening to the stressful story, women reported more sadness and anxiety than men,” and went on to say, “as well as greater behavioral arousal. But, for the men….emotional arousal was linked to increases in alcohol craving. In other words, when men are upset, they are more likely to want alcohol.”
Researchers concluded that based upon these findings in addition to the fact that men have a tendency to drink more than women on average, and seem to have more experience with alcohol, that perhaps they have a tendency to turn to alcohol as a way of coping with the stress. Chaplin commented “Men’s tendency to crave alcohol when upset may be a learned behavior or may be related to known gender differences in reward pathways in the brain.” Chaplin then continued that “And this tendency may contribute to risk for alcohol-use disorders.”
Researchers concluded that there seems to be a greater acceptance of “emotionality”, particularly anxiety and sadness in women than men. Chaplin commented “Women are more likely than men to focus on negative emotional aspects of stressful circumstances, for example, they tend to ‘ruminate’ or think over and over again about their negative emotional state,” she said. “Men, in contrast, are more likely to distract themselves from negative emotions, to try not to think about these emotions. Our finding that men had greater blood pressure response to stress, but did not report greater sadness and anxiety, may reflect that they are more likely to try to distract themselves from their physiological arousal, possibly through the use of alcohol.”
Information adapted from:
Kwangik Hong, Keri Bergquist, and Rajita Sinha of the Department of Psychiatry at the Yale University School of Medicine. Gender Differences in Response to Emotional Stress: An Assessment across Subjective, Behavioral and Physiological Domains and Relations to Alcohol Craving. Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research. July 2008.
Online at ScienceDaily (May 12, 2008): Men Are More Likely Than Women To Crave Alcohol When They Feel Negative Emotions
Additional Information and webpage by Paul Susic Ph.D Licensed Psychologist (Health and Geriatric Psychologist)