Chronic anxiety is a disorder that requires identifying the underlying mechanisms in order to better understand why women are particularly prone to it. A recent American study conducted on an animal model puts the subject on the table by suggesting that gender may influence anxiety disorders.
Anxiety disorders: predominant in women
Anxiety, which is often called “angst”, designates an excessive but temporary reaction to a situation that the person feels as a danger or a threat. A diffuse feeling of apprehension and worry takes hold of her and she is then plagued by psychological symptoms (fatigue, irritability, inability to control certain situations) and physical symptoms (heart palpitations, feeling of suffocation, sweating , hot flushes, lump in the throat or stomach, insomnia, etc.).
When the person experiences chronic anxiety, it is called an anxiety disorder. This state is repeated, lasts over time, occurs without any real danger or creates such suffering that it permanently disrupts their daily life.
To know ! Anxiety disorders manifest themselves differently in different people and are grouped into various diseases.
The role of social and cultural factors should not be overlooked in the development of anxiety. Nevertheless, the unprecedented Covid-19 pandemic has certainly itself greatly influenced people’s anxiety. Teleworking, school at home, isolation, represented so many new challenges that had to be faced. But if anxiety disorders can appear at all ages of life, it is especially young adults (25 to 44 years old) who are concerned. And in particular women who are twice as affected as men.
In this context, researchers from Indiana University School of Medicine have recently wished examine the impact of biological factors on anxiety disorders, particularly in women.
Deciphering animal behaviors linked to anxiety
To carry out their research, the scientists studied male and female rodent models. The objective of this study was to better understand sex differences in animal biological responses related to anxiety.
To know ! While anxiety in humans is complex, in animals it is purely a function of biology.
The researchers thus discovered that male and female rats showed very different responses to anxiety related to the most important aspects of life. For example, in one of the behavioral tasks the researchers devised, rodents had to grab food pellets from the center of a brightly lit arena. However, you should know that rodents do not like light. This luminosity therefore created an anxious conflict in them. The scientists then observed that it was the female rats that took longer to touch the food and ate less food than the male rats.
The researchers also gave the rats a drug used to treat anxiety: diazepam. They found that this drug was able to significantly reduce anxiety in female rats, but on the other hand had little effect in male rats when interacting with food.
Other rodent scenarios have shown similarities between male and female rats, but only the parts of the task that were most relevant to rodent life (the food) showed gender differences.
These observations support the results of previous studies which showed that female rats exhibited better responses to the urine of a predator and had greater anxiety in the presence of a second rat which was free to move.
Anxiety disorders: towards a better understanding of human anxiety
Published in the newspaper Psychopharmacology, these rodent behaviors associated with anxiety support the thesis that female anxiety would intensify under certain specific conditions of life.
For the study’s lead author, knowing that anxiety can manifest as different concerns in men and women is an important consideration in finding more effective, personalized, differences-based treatments. of sex.
The results of this study therefore constitute a working basis for future investigations on behaviors linked to anxiety. For if biological factors seem to play an important role in anxiety disorders, it is still difficult to unravel precisely the mechanisms at the origin of anxiety in humans.
Déborah L., Doctor of Pharmacy
– Understand anxiety disorders in adults. ameli.fr. Accessed July 26, 2021.