Stress affects all genders, but does it affect men and women differently?
Yes, in some ways, and that’s why today we’ll be looking at how stress specifically affects men and how their experience can differ slightly from women.
Understanding these gender differences makes it easier to recognize stress in men, which is a fundamental part of learning how to deal with it effectively.
While acute stress can be helpful at times, when stress becomes chronic, it can negatively impact a man’s life in many ways, including their mental and physical health.
Fortunately, there are some proven strategies for managing and reducing stress which men can easily implement. We’ll be looking at these strategies and explaining how to recognize the different symptoms of stress in men and what the common causes are.
Does Stress Affect Men Differently?
Men and women respond differently to stress for various biological, social, and psychological reasons. Here’s how stress affects men differently:
A critical factor in why women and men respond differently to stress is hormones. In stressful situations, hormones called epinephrine and cortisol are released, increasing blood sugar levels and blood pressure and reducing the immune system’s effectiveness. A third hormone called oxytocin, which promotes relaxing and nurturing emotions, is also released, but much less in men than women.
Gender Differences in Stress Response
Stress tends to trigger a fight or flight response in men, which significantly affects how men deal with stress. Men are more likely to bottle up their feelings, engage in escapist behavior, withdraw socially, or experience an increase in aggression. Whereas women often respond to stress by “tending and befriending” as they have higher oxytocin levels. This means they’re more likely to reach out to others for support and nurture those around them.
Men are Less Likely to Seek Help
Men are more likely to bottle up their stress, ignore their problems, or try to cope alone. Men may feel ashamed to see a doctor or therapist because they feel pressured to act ‘tough’ or ‘manly.’ As a result, some men choose unhealthy coping behaviors like alcohol and drugs, which can further increase stress and worsen mental health. Men also commit suicide more often than women.
Men’s Health Issues
When stress becomes chronic, it can eventually lead to serious health problems in both men and women. It’s believed that up to 80% of visits to the doctor are linked to stress in some way. For men, chronic stress can increase the risk of prostate cancer, infertility, cardiovascular disease, and chronic gastrointestinal problems; and it can also cause erectile dysfunction and chronic pain.
Stress Symptoms In Men
The signs and symptoms of stress in men can be physical, mental, and behavioral. Here’s a rundown of some of the most common symptoms to look out for.
The physical symptoms of stress can include:
- Low energy and fatigue
- Muscles aches and pain (Back, neck, and chest)
- Erectile dysfunction
- Poor concentration
- Increased heart rate
- High blood pressure
- Upset stomach, diarrhea, or constipation
- Heartburn and indigestion
The psychological symptoms of stress can include:
- Mood swings
- Irritability and anger
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Difficulty concentrating
- Diminished sex drive
Changes in Behavior
Behavioral changes caused by stress may include:
- Alcohol or drug misuse
- Social withdrawal, avoidance, or isolation
- Smoking more
- Bad-tempered or aggressive
- Oversleeping or undersleeping
- Eating too much or too little
If you’ve been experiencing any of the symptoms above for a prolonged period, it’s worth seeking advice from a doctor or therapist. This will ensure you get an accurate diagnosis, as many of these symptoms are also associated with other medical conditions and mental health disorders like clinical depression and anxiety.
Causes of Stress in Men
Different forms of mental or emotional pressure are usually the cause of stress, especially when pressure builds up to the point where you feel overwhelmed or not in control.
It’s not always easy to identify the exact cause of stress, but some of the most common examples would include:
- Finances: Debt, paying bills, and not earning enough money.
- Work: Long hours, pressure to perform, job loss, and retirement.
- Family & Relationships: Divorce, caring for others, couple’s issues, and loneliness.
- Health: Injury and illness, either affecting you or a loved one.
- Major Life Events: Planning a wedding, having a baby, death of a loved one, or moving house.
How to Manage and Reduce Stress
The good news about stress in both men and women is that there are practical ways to manage and reduce it. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the daily pressures of life, try incorporating some of these activities into your daily or weekly routine.
- Exercise: Play a sport, go for a bike ride, walk in the park, or practice yoga. Exercise can reduce stress, boost confidence, and help you sleep better.
- Meditation: Consistent, daily meditation practice is scientifically proven to reduce stress, and it can also boost your mood and focus.
- Breathing Exercises: Deep breathing exercises can help you feel more relaxed, slow your heart rate, and reduce physical symptoms of stress.
- Seek Support: Talking to friends, family members, or a therapist about your problems or feelings can help ease stress and make you feel good.
- Do Things You Enjoy: Set aside time for hobbies and activities you enjoy, as they can help you unwind and relieve stress. Also, don’t be afraid to say no to things you don’t want to do.
- Plan Ahead: Set yourself realistic goals, use time-management techniques, keep lists of things to remember, and plan in advance for stressful events.
- Avoid Alcohol and Drugs: Cutting out alcohol, drugs, and tobacco products will help decrease stress, and reducing your caffeine intake can also help.
- Try to Be Positive: Cultivating an optimistic attitude by focusing on the positive things in life and expressing gratitude can boost resilience and help reduce stress.
- Listen to Music: Calming instrumental music can have a relaxing effect on the mind and body.
While stress affects both men and women similarly in some ways, it’s clear there are also some differences. Learning to recognize the symptoms of stress in men is the first step in dealing with it. Incorporating some of the tips and strategies above should help you manage stress and keep it at a reasonable level.
If you’re finding it difficult to cope with stress, and it’s negatively affecting your health or well-being, our online therapists here at Calmerry are always ready to lend an ear. You can talk through your problems and experiences in a safe, confidential environment and receive professional help from our trained specialists.