How The Fight Or Flight Response Varies Between Men And Women

Your brain is always looking to protect you. Whenever it senses a threat, it sends a message to your body to prepare to either run away from that threat or stay and fight it off, hence the term "fight or flight". This is your body's response to stress and can include an increase in your breathing which oxygenates your blood as well as an increase in your heart rate to send more of that oxygenated blood to your organs and muscles to help prep you to run or fight, per Healthline.

Our brains developed this sensitive fight or flight response to keep us alive and well. While most of us don't often find ourselves in true life or death situations, our brains may protect us as if we are, especially if we are dealing with chronic stress (via Mayo Clinic). That's why we may feel this fight or flight response when a dog barks at us, when we get a letter in the mail from a bill collector, or when we find ourselves in an argument with our partner.

While every human is wired to experience this fight or flight response, research has shown that it may manifest differently in men than it does in women.

How men's fight or flight response may differ from that of women

According to some research, the fight or flight response in men can be more aggressive than in women, thanks to the differences in our genetic makeup. Per Science Daily, Dr. Joohyung Lee from the Prince Henry's Institute in Melbourne explained, "Historically males and females have been under different selection pressures which are reflected by biochemical and behavioral differences between the sexes. The aggressive fight-or-flight reaction is more dominant in men, while women predominantly adopt a less aggressive tend-and-befriend response."

When we are stressed, our bodies release a flood of chemicals including catecholamines which are a group of hormones made up of dopamine, adrenaline, and noradrenaline and are responsible for the body's "fight or flight" response (via Medical News Today).

Researchers have discovered that the SRY gene, which is part of the male Y sex chromosome, may be the reason why men's responses to fight or flight can differ from those of women, per Science Daily. The researchers suggested that part of what the SRY gene does is release an increased amount of the catecholamine stress hormone, thereby making men more prone to aggressive fight or flight responses. Women, on the other hand, may release opiates naturally occurring in the body, which may reduce combative or aggressive behavior thanks to their pain-relieving effects.