Commentary| Volume 70, ISSUE 10, P908-909, November 15, 2011

Complex Roles of Estrogen in Emotion: Sex Matters

      Women are more than twice as likely to suffer from fear and anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder, panic attacks, and posttraumatic stress disorder. One reason for this difference may be that fluctuating ovarian hormone levels in women during their reproductive life span alters emotional processing. For example, the incidence of anxiety symptoms is higher when ovarian hormone levels are low, including during premenstrual, postpartum, and perimenopausal periods. These women can benefit from estrogen treatment, suggesting an anxiolytic effect. Despite these striking sex differences and decades of research investigating the processes involved in controlling emotion, we know surprisingly little regarding the neurobiological mechanisms underlying this disproportionate incidence of fear and anxiety disorders.
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