Do Men and Women Worry Differently?
"You worry too much" is a phrase women often hear from men. However, recent studies using new imaging techniques have identified different patterns of worrying. It seems that women DO NOT worry more than men. They just worry differently.
When women worry, they tend to use both the right and left side of their brains. Men tend to stay within the left hemisphere, the analytical side of the brain.
Dr. Vesna Pirec, a psychiatrist at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago says, "With both hemispheres activated in women, there are many more types of emotional reactions. And women, in times of stress, also tend to remember many more details than men would." It is tough to argue about "what really happened" with a women under stress.
Therefore, women tend to express their worries differently than men. "Women have a greater tendency to brood, with a lot of [emotions] engaged in it," says Dr. Joan Lang, chairwoman of the department of psychiatry at St. Louis University School of Medicine. "Men have a tendency to be a little more obsessive, concentrating on 'What should I do?' rather than, 'What am I feeling?"
THE TRUTH: Women do not necessarily worry more than men. They jut express their worry more. Men may still obsess during the day and keep themselves up at night thinking about what they did wrong and what they will do when next faced with the same or similar challenge.
On the other hand, women seem to have a tendency to experience negative emotions, such as fear and anxiety, more intensely than men do. They worry about the outcomes of future events, such as their safety, security, and relationship status.
The reason why worrying is often pinned on women is that they tend to verbalize it more. They feel better when they talk about their worries with others who will listen. Men tend to keep quiet about their concerns for fear of appearing weak which leads to body aches, heart problems, and digestive disorders. Men also tend to project their anxieties out onto others, becoming angry or irritated with them instead of admitting to the things they are worried about.
WHAT, ME WORRY? Worrying is actually your brain's alarm system. Without it, you might do and say things that could harm your relationships and careers. However, you can't believe everything your brain says since it is only acting on memories and not on the facts of the future situation.
Therefore, it is good to give voice to your worries. Find the time to sit down and listen to them fully. The quicker you can hear what your brain is worried about, the quicker you can decide whether to listen to it or not.
BRAIN TIP #1: IDENTIFY EXACTLY WHAT YOUR BRAIN IS SAYING TO YOU.
The best way of working with your worry is to have a conversation with your brain when the worrying shows up.
Thank your brain for protecting you, then ask it what it believes is at stake, really. What can harm you? Is it true? What are the consequences of trying, really? If I make the phone call, have the conversation, go for the promotion, stand on the stage, or agree to go on an adventure, what is the worse that can happen? How likely is that to happen, really? How does that weigh with the good possibilities?
By talking with your brain, you can assess the true level of risk and make better choices for yourself. With awareness and practice, you can distinguish what is a real threat from when your brain is being overprotective.
BRAIN TIP #2: SUPPOSE THE WORSE DID HAPPEN
Ask yourself: Is it true that the person or situation will deprive you of what you need or desire, or cause you to feel humiliated or depressed? If so, then what will happen after that? Often we don't realize that the worse that can happen is not that bad. Worrying tends to be based on fear of the unknown. If we know what can happen, we can usually find ways to survive and even thrive with the results.
BRAIN TIP #3: WEIGH THE POSSIBILITY OF OUTCOMES
If there is a possibility of a loss, is the chance of getting what you really want greater than the possibility of a loss? If so, what first step are you willing to take? OR, if the risk is minimal or barely true, can you let go of the emotions and move on? Focus on how you would like to feel and how you want this story to end.
BRAIN TIP #4: FORGIVE YOURSELF FOR BEING HUMAN
Everyone worries, in their own way. Relax. Find gentler ways to talk to yourself instead of beating yourself up for the things you did in the past. Learn from your actions and move on. Trust that things always work out, because they do.
Why Do Women Worry So Much?
To be sure, not every woman is a chronic worrywart. But women are twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with anxiety disorders, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
Understanding why isn't easy. In the last two decades, researchers have examined hormonal fluctuations, genetics, environmental stressors and cultural factors. And they've concluded there's no single reason women are more vulnerable to anxiety than men.
”It's really the interplay between all these factors that leads to higher anxiety rates in women compared to men," said Olga Brawman-Mintzer, director of the anxiety disorders program at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston.
The brain is chock full of receptors for female hormones. These hormone receptors also interact with brain chemicals called neurotransmitters, which are involved in feelings of anxiety. These interactions may be part of the reason why women are at higher risk for anxiety than men. A 2006 review article in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology found that women's risk for anxiety (and its close cousin, depression) goes up after puberty, when estrogen production begins to rise. But the estrogen-anxiety relationship isn't linear, Brawman-Mintzer warns.
"It's not a very simple relationship," she said. "At low levels, estrogen may have anti-anxiety effects, but very high levels may have negative effects."
Some of the gender difference could be evolutionary. Research has shown that both adult women and young girls are more likely than men and boys to make connections between bad events in the past and possible negative events in the future, which could also increase anxiety about what lies ahead. It's possible that these coping mechanisms may have helped our ancestors successfully raise offspring, but in today's world, they might make women more vulnerable to worry.
And then there are environmental factors. Societal expectations can shape anxiety symptoms, and women may face different cultural burdens than men. In one study, researchers asked Swedish women about their health and stress levels, and found that a combination of job strain and unpaid housework lead to poorer self-reported health, according to an article in the International Journal of Behavioral Medicine in 2006.
Whatever the cause, anxiety is a serious problem. Chronic stress can weaken the immune system and has been linked to heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and some types of cancer. And, according to 2008 data from the National Institute of Mental Health, more than 40 million American adults have a full-blown anxiety disorder. So take a deep breath, relax, and if that doesn't work, see a doctor.
Women Worry More About Body Image
Even women who appear to have a realistic perception of body image are concerned about their own weight gain. Neuroscientist Mark Allen at the Brigham Young University has used psychological screening tests and brain scans to show the subconscious fear women have of getting fat.
The study involved 10 normal weight women and nine normal weight men between the ages of 18 and 30, none of which had a history of an eating disorder. Both groups had brain scans using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) while being shown pictures of people with different body shapes that matched the subjects’ gender. They were asked to view the picture as if their body were the shape as the person in the picture.
When women looked at the images of overweight women, their brain scans showed a spike in activity in the medial prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain involved with self-reflection and self-worth. Women with eating disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia, show similar activity except that it is more pronounced. When the women were asked to picture themselves as thin, there was no significant change in brain activity.
Men did not show any indication that they showed the same concern about body image, although previous research by Allen has shown that male bodybuilders do have similar brain activity patterns as bulimic women.
Allen said that the contrasting results between the sexes were “not really a male-female difference, so much as it’s the social pressure that surrounds men and women. Even though they (women) claim they don’t care about body issues…their brains are showing that it really bugs them to think about the prospect of being overweight.”
He said “Women are actually engaging in an evaluation of who they are and whether they are worthwhile as a person.”
Diane Spangler, a BYU psychology professor, added "Women are bombarded with messages that perpetuate the thin ideal, and the barrage changes how they view themselves." She added that "many women learn that bodily appearance and thinness constitute what is important about them, and their brain responding [to the images] reflects that."
Future studies will be conducted on overweight women to see if the same spike in brain activity occurs as a result of feeling pressure to change to meet an ideal.
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Things Women Shouldn't Worry About In Bed
Most of us don’t relish the idea of being nekkid in front of another person. Even fashion models with perfect bodies have “fat days” on occasion. Needless to say, the stress related to natural insecurity can wreak havoc on a woman’s love life. I used to worry about this when I was in my early 20’s. The nagging voices would start as I was getting ready for the date – and they wouldn’t stop until days after the date was done. The buggers were damned creative, too.
It wasn’t until I reached my late 20’s that I realized men really only have one or two things on their mind once you slip between the sheets – and it’s not what you think. You are going to have to trust me when I tell you the primary thought bouncing around in his head is “Yes, I’m getting some tonight!” – followed closely by “I hope she thinks I’m good” You can change the wording if you like, but that’s the gist of it. So, guess what? That means he’s not thinking about all those things you’re stressing over.
Does he think my thighs are fat? Girlfriend, he’s not even looking at your thighs. Nor is he inspecting you for cellulite or any other skin blemishes. His eye is on the prize, trust me.
Does he think my breasts are too small? Sweetie, he doesn’t have time to think thoughts like this! The girls are magic to most men; all shapes and sizes are sexy to him.
Does he like my lingerie? Yes. I don’t even need to know what kind you’re wearing. Most women don’t bother dressing up for their man, so if you’re actually sporting something made for lovin', he’s feeling damned lucky, I promise.
Does he think I’m sexy enough? This is a classic. Sister, if he didn’t find you sexy, he wouldn’t be able to deliver the goods. If he’s in bed with you, he thinks you’re plenty sexy!
Does he think I’m a good kisser? I dunno about gay men, but the majority of straight men seem fairly unskilled at kissing. Which means he probably doesn’t know the difference between a good kiss and a bad kiss. Besides, if he keeps kissing you, he can’t be unhappy with the results!
Does he think I smell bad? No, he doesn’t. Not unless you have an infection that’s causing an unpleasant odor. If you don’t, whatever scent you have was designed to attract him. Stop worrying about this one. The scent of a clean, healthy woman is sexy.
Does he think I’m good in bed? If you’re a star in bed, yes, he will be thinking this. If you’re average, or even underaverage, the idea will probably not even occur to him. He’ll be far too wrapped up in that “Yes, I’m getting some tonight!” thought I mentioned earlier. Do not worry about this one!
Does he like the way I’ve styled my bikini line? Unless you’re completely overgrown, he is, at the very least, plenty satisfied. Some men prefer different fashions, but nearly all of them will be thrilled just being able to navigate without needing a scythe.
Does he like the sound of my voice? I’ll make this simple – if you sound like you like something he’s doing, YES, he will like the sound. A lot. Just make sure it's genuine.
Does it bother him that I'd prefer nothing go down the hatch? Unless he’s an insensitive pig, no, it doesn't.
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