An animal study led by researchers at the Indiana University School of Medicine examined how separate factors affect anxiety disorders in men and women. The team conducted a study on male and female rodent models to better understand sex difference in biological responses related to anxiety. They published their findings in the journal Psychopharmacology. The study examined how biological factors impact anxiety disorders, specifically in females, and found that anxiety intensifies in females when there's a specific, life-relevant condition.
Thatiane De Oliveira Sergio, Ph.D., led the team to study rodent models to better understand sex differences in biological responses related to anxiety. They said anxiety disorders occur twice as often in women than men, and social and cultural factors likely play an important role in the development of anxiety in females. They added that the roles for many women have amplified during the pandemic, working remotely, teaching children in virtual school, everyday tasks, errands. These factors could have increased their anxiety.
De Oliviera said, “This work is giving us a foundation to start and explore anxiety behaviours that are very important and even more relevant now. Biological factors play an important role in these types of mood disorders, but it can be hard to untangle the mechanisms that drive anxiety in humans. This rodent work is important to do to help develop more effective and personalized treatments.”
The researchers, in behavioural tasks, gave the rodents pellets of food to grab from a brightly lit centre of a big arena. Rats aren't compatible with light, so this creates an anxious conflict. Female rats took longer to touch the food and ate less food as compared to the males. The researchers also gave the rodents diazepam- a drug used to treat anxiety - and it greatly reduced anxiety in females, but it had little effect in males when interacting with food.
“Knowing that anxiety can manifest from different concerns in males and females, with females particularly attuned to the most life-relevant conditions, is a valuable step towards seeking better treatments based on sex differences,” De Oliveira said.