The Female Alternative to 'Fight or Flight'


| August 8, 2003

'Women have a larger behavioral repertoire than just fight or flight,' writes Gale Berkowitz. 'When the hormone oxytocin is released as part of the stress responses in a woman, it buffers the fight or flight response and encourages her to tend children and gather with other women instead.' A landmark UCLA study found that the chemicals in a woman's brain, combined with hormone levels unique to her gender, causes her to make and maintain friendships with other women. Drs. Laura Cousin Klein and Shelley Taylor, two of the study's authors, put two and two together when they noticed that women at the lab reacted to stress by cleaning the lab, having coffee and bonding, while their male colleagues 'holed up somewhere on their own.' That, coupled with the fact that 90 percent of prior stress research had been done on men, caused the doctors to realize they were onto something. Berkowitz speculates that women's stress response could explain why they live longer than men.
-- Anne Geske

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