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Women: The angrier sex?

If women are considered the gentler and ‘weaker’ sex , how is it then that they appear to harbour more anger?

The recent case of the lady driver who started abusing an elderly driver verbally and physically when he knocked into her new car took many Malaysians by surprise. As the video of the abuse went viral, the social media was ablaze with comments that it was no way for gentle, friendly Malaysians, more so a woman, to behave. Although it is true that her behaviour was unacceptable, what is more worrying is that it was probably the tip of the iceberg. More women today are involved in domestic abuse, more have been convicted for violent crimes, and more mothers today are impatient and easily irritable with their children than ever before.

Before we talk about why women seem to be angrier than men, let’s first understand anger. You may know anger as the emotion experienced when someone takes what belongs to you, or when you feel yourself subjected to injustice. Scientifically, anger is a hormonal response, where the body releases substances to inform the brain to prepare for a “fight or flight” response. Blood pressure and blood glucose spikes dramatically, preparing the body for “battle”. Blood is channelled to the brain in large amounts, ready for split-second decisions. That is why you feel yourself shaking and breaking into cold sweat when angry.

The whole body is put into emergency mode, where your digestive system, immune system and just about all other systems shut down temporarily because all the vital nutrients in the bloodstream are being sent to the “battlefield” – the brain. Everyone gets angry at some point, and it is alright to express yourself or stand up for your rights. However, being angry too frequently can have severe implications on your health. Countless studies show that angry people are more prone to disease, especially high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease and more.

Stifling your anger is just as bad. No one likes being around a silent, depressed, sullen partner or friend, or an explosive, hostile one; hence, perpetually angry people often find themselves isolated socially. Stifled anger has been linked to some cancers, high blood pressure, heart failure and higher death rates.

Which brings us to the question at hand: If women are considered the gentler and ‘weaker’ sex , how is it then that we harbour more anger? There are many factors at play and a woman who seems to fly off the handle easily could sometimes be facing more than one issue. These are possible causes:

  • Mineral imbalance

Women tend to have higher copper levels in the blood than men, which can disrupt hormonal balance and cause emotional instability. At the same time, women tend to have less zinc, which is believed to have a calming effect as it is a mood regulator.

  • Energy levels 

Physically, women have a smaller build and less physical energy compared to men. This can create a sense of fear and unease, which may sometimes translate into irrational anxieties and irritability. Remember anger is a “fight or flight” reaction. Even when a particular threat is unfounded, it creates enough unease to spark a negative chain reaction of defensive behaviour, one of which is anger.

  • Hormonal changes

We’re all familiar with the “time of the month” when someone seems more explosive than usual. Blame it on the volatile levels of oestrogen that make us moodier than usual. Men, on the other hand, have more testosterone, which gives them a sense of confidence, superiority and safety. In the same way, it is not uncommon for pregnant or menopausal women to be more easily agitated than usual.

  • Societal expectations

Let’s just admit it. An angry woman seldom looks her best. Society is also less kind to a woman who cannot hold her cool. Women who are angry or moody are given all kinds of nasty nicknames, while men get away with far more understanding or empathy when they blow their top or even get violent, whether in private or public. This leads to a lot of suppressed feelings, sense of helplessness and dissatisfaction among women – a time bomb in the making.

  • Overburdened with responsibilities

In the past, women were not expected to work and could focus on raising the family and caring for the home. Today, women have to do that and more. Juggling family, social life, career and personal development all at once can take its toll over time.

The frustrations and burdens can reach a bursting point when all it takes is a small trigger, such as someone cutting into your path during a traffic jam, for all hell to break loose. The outburst is usually not the result of a single incident, but a culmination of a long string of frustrations, grief and anger over time.

  • Intuition and intelligence

Being more intuitive and sensitive, women tend to be more affected when they are exposed to social injustice or societal problems. However, they are less aggressive in voicing their displeasure because of the fear of repercussions, especially fearing physical harm or harm to their families. The sense of helplessness may lead to depression and unwarranted tantrums when their emotions simmer over.

  • Anger vs action

In the face of a potential threat, the natural response would be to decide quickly whether to “fight or flee”. Staying to fight it out would mean taking the challenge head-on, which is to take action on the situation, come what may. However, most women would choose the less confrontational way out to avoid being seen as aggressive or get branded with nasty names. Unfortunately, the guilt of having fled the challenge instead of battling on never quite leaves.

When asked who they are most angry with, most angry women would have the same reply: Themselves. They blame themselves for not being stronger, for not answering back, not acting decisively, not making themselves heard.

Don’t miss Part Two of this series next fortnight on how to control anger and become a calmer, healthier you.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

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