Birth control complicates recovery from stress, study finds
To assess the women’s “stress tolerance,” the researchers measured their levels of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) during a stressful event. ACTH can signal changes in stress levels faster than changes in the more well-known stress hormone cortisol.
“Stress resilience is your natural innate ability to recover from an anxiety response,” explains licensed marriage and family therapist Jeff Yu, LMFT. “Resilience to stress is as natural as the response to stress,” he adds, noting that eventually everyone will come out of fight-or-flight mode, and the sooner that happens, the better.
For this study, researchers drew blood from women (which created a stressful environment) and then measured their ACTH levels immediately after the injection. Participants then participated in group activities such as board games, group singing, group conversation, etc. for 15 minutes. This should help release anxiety, as social interaction is one of the biggest effective ways to reduce stress2.
The results show that 15 minutes of social activity reduced stress hormone levels in women who were not taking birth control pills. Women who took birth control pills did not experience the same significant drop in stress hormones. However, ACTH levels decreased in 70% of all participants during the group activity to some extent, confirming the positive effect of socialization after stress.