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4. Stress effect by gender

4. Stress effect by gender

The effects of stress are gender-specific.
Exposure to stress during pregnancy and after birth can lead to social and cognitive disorders in boys, while girls and women may be more resilient to certain stresses.

4.1. Stress in boys and men

Stress during pregnancy and after birth increased the risk of disorders in boys with regard to1

  • Socialization, e.g. autism spectrum disorder, and
  • Attention and cognition, such as ADHD.

4.2. Stress in girls and women

Girls and women showed resilience to some stressors during pregnancy and postpartum. The risk of stress-related disorders possibly increased after periods of hormonal activation and flux such as1

  • Puberty
    increases the risk of
    • Depression
    • Anxiety disorder
    • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Pregnancy
    increases the risk of disorders of the
    • Memory processes (dementia)
    • Emotional processes
  • Perimenopause
    increases the risk of disorders of the
    • Memory processes (dementia)
    • Emotional processes

4.3. Stress system damage causes lifelong sensitivity to stress

Experiences are stored in the brain through the synchronization of nerve cells. Nerve cells connect with each other through synapses and also form groups of cells that fire together through other mechanisms. Even if negative experiences that have caused fear or pain have been “unlearned” again (actively or passively), this does not lead to the cell groups dissolving completely. Individual nerve cells continue to fire together when the corresponding stimuli are triggered. The fact that no (negative) reactions perceptible to the individual are triggered is rather due to an inhibition of these reactions by the PFC, but not because the experiences made have been completely eliminated from the neurophysiological representation by the nerve cells. Grave2, with reference to LeDoux, explains this in detail and quite comprehensibly.3

However, if stressors are added again, this reaction inhibition by the PFC no longer applies. This could possibly result from the inhibition of the function of the PFC during high stress caused by high noradrenaline levels.

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