The majority of people are aware of all five senses (touch sight, hearing smell, taste, and touch) But many people are unaware that we also have a sixth sense known as interoception.
This is our perception of our body’s internal condition. It assists us in recognizing the internal messages that control essential functions within our bodies such as thirst, hunger body temperature, heart rate.
Although we rarely take note of it, it’s a very vital to ensure that each system of the body is functioning properly.
It alerts us that our body might be in disarray for example, leading us to grab drinks when we’re thirsty or warning us to take the jacket off when we feel hot.
Interception is also essential for our mental well-being. It is due to the fact that it contributes to a variety of psychological processes, which include decision making, social capacity, and overall wellbeing.
Interoception problems are also found in a wide range of mental health issues, such as anxiety, depression as well as eating disorders. This could also be the reason why many mental health disorders are characterized by similar symptoms, like insomnia or fatigue that is not as good.
Despite the significance of interception for every aspect of our health it is not well understood whether women and men differ in the way they perceive the body’s signals.
As of now, research studies have looked into whether cisgender people as well as women (a person who’s gender identity matches their biological sexuality) perceive and interpret the signals of interoception emanating from their lungs, hearts and stomachs differently have yielded mixed results. The ability to determine if there are differences is vital, since it can help us better understand of differences in mental as well as physical health.
To provide a more clear picture to get a clearer picture, we merged information from 93 studies looking at interception among females and males. We concentrated on studies looking at how people interpret the heart, lung, and stomach signals in various tasks.
For instance, certain studies required participants to take note of their heartbeats, while other studies asked participants to find out if flashing lights occurred when their stomachs contracted or if they were able to discern a difference in their breath when breathing into a device which is more difficult to breathe normal.
Our research revealed that interoception actually differ between males and females. Women had significantly lower accuracy when it came to heart-related tasks (and to a certain extent, lung-focused tasks) when compared to men. These differences don’t appear to be caused by other factors, such as the level of effort required by participants during the exercise or physical differences in the weight of their bodies or blood pressure.
While we did find significant differences across tasks involving heartbeats but findings for different tasks appeared not as clear. It could be because only a tiny portion of studies have examined the stomach and lung sensation. It’s too early to determine if women and men have different perceptions of the signals.
The results of our study could be significant in helping us understand the reasons the majority of mental health issues (such as depression and anxiety) are more common for women than males as they enter puberty.
There are a variety of theories to explain this phenomenon, including hormonal factors, genetics or personality, as well as exposure to stress or hardship.
However, since we are aware that interoception is crucial to health, it’s possible that the differences in interoception may be the reason that women are more susceptible to depression and anxiety than do men.
This is due to the fact that issues in interception can impact many aspects, including social, emotional, and cognitive functioning that are all recognized to be risk factors for various mental health issues.
Understanding the different ways women and men perceive interoceptive signals can be crucial in the treatment of mental illnesses.
Although new research suggests that the improvement of interoception can improve mental health, research also suggest that men utilize interoceptive signals, for instance, from their hearts more often than women when processing their emotions.
There are other differences that have been documented, with research showing that women pay greater focus on the signals from their interoceptive system in comparison to males.
This may mean that therapies that focus on or aim to improve interoception might be beneficial for some individuals and that different methods could be better suited to certain people. Future research needs to look into.
However, even though we are aware of the differentiating factors exist, we aren’t sure what is causing these differences. Researchers have some theories, which include the different hormonal and physiological changes that women and men feel. This could be due to the different ways that women and men are taught to perceive their emotions, or the interoceptive signals such as pain.
Understanding all the elements that influence interoceptive abilities could be vital for developing more effective treatments for a variety of mental health disorders.