PTSD and Women

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), develops after a person is exposed to severe trauma. Although PTSD is often associated with combat, it can occur following any severe trauma, such as a natural disaster, terrorist incident, serious accident, personal assault, mass violence or sudden death of a loved one.

People who develop PTSD may experience disturbing memories or nightmares that cause them to relieve the traumatic incident time and time again. Most people recover from the traumatic event, but some remain depressed or anxious for many months, or even years.

PTSD affects both genders, but it affects women differently. Men are more likely to experience severe trauma, but women have a higher likelihood of developing symptoms of PTSD.

How PTSD Affects Women

Studies indicate that at least half of all women will experience some type of trauma at least one time during their life, and sexual assault is the most common form. Women are more likely than men to be neglected or sexually abused as children, and also have a substantially higher rate of domestic violence as adults.

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs National Center for PTSD, women who develop PTSD as a result of sexual violence experience symptoms similar to those of male combat victims.

Women in the Military

Although the number of women in combat has increased in recent years, female soldiers are still greatly outnumbered by men. However, statistics indicate that women in the military are more likely to be sexually assaulted, which means that many female soldiers experience dual trauma.

How PTSD Affects Women Differently

Male PTSD sufferers frequently experience severe hostility and anger issues, while women with PTSD are more likely to develop severe depression or anxiety. Although men tend to turn to substance abuse more often as a means of coping with trauma, women can also develop issues with drug and alcohol addiction.

Women may develop trust issues that interfere with personal relationships. They may face difficulties at work, and they may struggle with parenting. They may feel numb and detached from other people, and like their male counterparts, they may have severe insomnia or other sleep problems.

Not all women who experience trauma will develop PTSD, but symptoms are more likely if:

  • Injury occurred during the traumatic event.
  • Other stresses were present following the event.
  • The trauma victim had a history of depression, anxiety or other mental health issues.
  • The event was very severe or life-threatening.
  • The trauma involved sexual attack or rape.
  • The victim lacks supportive friends and family.

Treatment for PTSD in Women

Female PTSD sufferers have many good options for treatment, yet many women are unaware that they have the disorder and others choose not to seek help.

Antidepressants help many women with symptoms of anxiety or depression associated with PTSD. Various forms post-traumatic stress disorder treatment, including talk therapy, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), are highly effective.

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