Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is often associated with men who have returned from combat zones, but PTSD can develop in individuals who have been in severe accidents, been involved in violence or abuse, or experienced something personally traumatic. As researchers study better ways to recognize PTSD and plan treatment, they have found that women develop and experience PTSD in ways different from men. These findings may help provide specific treatment for women.
Experiences That May Cause PTSD in Women
More military women than ever are working in combat zones overseas, which puts them at risk for PTSD just like men. But other experiences, that are likelier to happen to women, are listed as some of the main causes of PTSD in women:
- Sexual Assault; 1 in 3 women will be assaulted in their lifetime
- Domestic abuse
- Child abuse or neglect
Women are Likelier to Experience PTSD
While studies show that men suffer trauma more often than women, women are twice as likely to experience PTSD. Not all people who have traumatic experiences develop PTSD, but researchers offer reasons why some women develop PTSD. Women are more likely to develop PTSD if they experienced the following:
- Sexual assault
- A severe injury
- Life-threatening or severe trauma
- A lack of social support afterwards
- A co-occurring psychological disorder like depression or anxiety
- Other stressful events following the trauma
Women and Men Exhibit Some Different Symptoms
Equality between men and women allow each to pursue their interests in life, but there will always be undeniable differences in how men and women react to certain situations.
PTSD exhibits some of its symptoms differently in men and women. Men more often respond in anger and outrage, while women more often numb their feelings and avoid people and places that bring back painful memories. Women often blame themselves for the trauma, especially related to sexual or domestic abuse. Women more often fall into depression or anxiety, while men more often turn to drugs or alcohol to try and rid the flashbacks and horrific memories.
Kerry Ressler, of Emory University, has identified biochemical factors in women that may make them more susceptible to PTSD. Her research on pituitary adenylate cyclase-activating polypeptide (PACAP) may help more women avoid the onset of PTSD and may help in their treatment.
Women Are Likelier to Seek Treatment
One advantage women have over men in conquering their PTSD is that they are more likely to seek treatment. Women often have positive experiences in treatment, maybe in part for their easy willingness to share emotions and feelings.