Studies show that around 60 percent of men and 50 percent of women will experience at least one trauma in their lifetime. A portion of this group develops post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Untreated PTSD has adverse effects on physical and mental health. It is crucial to get help as soon as possible to reduce suffering and prevent adverse life outcomes. If you or someone you know could benefit from trauma-focused therapy in a virtual PTSD treatment program, please call Sunstone Recovery today at 855.833.9199.
How the Effects of Trauma Relate to Higher Rates of PTSD in Women
Numerous studies on post-traumatic stress disorder have indicated that despite experiencing slightly lower rates of trauma, females are twice as likely to experience PTSD than males, with 10 percent of women developing PTSD compared to 4 percent of men. You may be wondering why genders process trauma differently. One theory posits that people can experience mental health issues differently due to socialization. Women are more likely to internalize issues (such as anxiety and depression), whereas men are more likely to externalize their problems (as seen with substance abuse and anger management issues).
PTSD diagnostic criteria emphasize internalized symptoms, and as a result, women are more likely to be diagnosed with PTSD. After experiencing a trauma, men are more likely to externalize symptoms such as abusing substances or reckless behaviors. Substance abuse alone wouldn’t be diagnosed as PTSD, but there could be an underlying cause at the root. Issues could be manifesting with a different presentation, causing men to be underdiagnosed with the disorder. This runs counter to conditions such as autism and ADHD, where women are historically under-diagnosed due to an externalized symptom focus.
Another key difference here is the types of trauma that genders typically experience. Men are more likely to endure physical assault, accidents, combat, or witness another’s death or injury. On the other hand, women are more likely to be sexually assaulted or sexually abused as a child. Roughly 91% of rape victims are women, and 9% are males. As a whole, 20% of women will be raped at some point in their lives compared to 1.4% of men. One study found the after-effects of a sexual assault are so traumatic that 94% of female victims experience symptoms of post-traumatic stress within the first two weeks of the occurrence.
Apart from trauma type, traditional culture and gender roles may contribute to the higher prevalence of PTSD among women. Studies found that the condition is more evident in communities that stress conventional gender roles (men having greater social power than women) because women in this culture already feel heightened emotional vulnerability.
It’s been recognized that men and women typically cope with stress differently. Rather than engaging in the “fight or flight” response, some women use the “tend and befriend” tactic. Tending involves taking care of other people’s issues, while befriending can be reaching out for emotional support during difficult times. When an individual’s coping abilities depend solely on the support of others, they can be more vulnerable to PTSD in times of solitude. If a woman cannot find the social network to give and receive the support she needs, her risk of PTSD dramatically increases.
Signs of PTSD in Women
Statistics show that approximately 8 million adults in the U.S. have PTSD during any given year. Like other disorders, PTSD can affect anyone and should never be viewed as a sign of weakness. Uncomfortable and life-disrupting symptoms characterize PTSD. Women experience physical symptoms such as stomach issues, sexual dysfunction, and headaches more often. The top symptoms of PTSD experienced by females are:
- Avoidance: An individual with PTSD often avoid anything that reminds them of their trauma. As PTSD symptoms worsen, the individual may become secluded and avoid experiences and people altogether. This isolation can lead to unhealthy outcomes.
- Negative Distortions in Thinking and Mood: Whether they are experiencing flashbacks or not, a person with PTSD may feel hopeless, numb, guilty, ashamed, or may even be thinking about suicide.
- Intrusive Memories: A person with PTSD can have persistent unwanted memory recollection and flashbacks of their trauma. These intrusive memories can present as nightmares. Seeing, hearing, or smelling something that reminds them of the traumatic event can trigger emotional distress.
- Behavioral Changes: Someone with PTSD may show significant changes in behavior, such as angry outbursts when they are usually calm and patient. Other signs of PTSD include trouble focusing, feeling threatened or in danger, and difficulty sleeping.
- Uncomfortable Physical Symptoms: Headache, chronic stomach issues, heart palpitations, sweating, nausea, shaking, sexual dysfunction, extreme fatigue, aches and pains, and a variety of other physical symptoms can be all be very real and debilitating physical responses to trauma.
Find Help for PTSD Today at Sunstone Recovery
People with PTSD often turn to drug use, disordered eating, risky sexual behavior, or behavioral addictions to cope. This is just one reason why professional help is crucial.
Fortunately, there are proven trauma-based therapies that target the condition. If you notice warning signs of PTSD, please contact us today at 855.833.9199 for information about our virtual treatment options for women who have PTSD.