PTSD Symptoms in Women
Did you know Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), doesn’t only affect veterans? Any event that generates significant negative feelings can lead to PTSD. About 50 percent of women and 60 percent of men experience at least one major trauma in their life.
PTSD symptoms in women tend to be different from those in men. If you or someone you know is having trouble coping with past events, it’s time to get help. Keep reading to learn more about PTSD in women.
PTSD in Women vs Men
Many different factors can increase a person’s susceptibility to developing PTSD. This isn’t a sign of weakness. Often, the individual has no control over the situation.
Anyone with first-hand knowledge or exposure to injury or trauma is at risk for PTSD. Yet women display a higher level of sensitivity to triggers that remind them of the event. In fact, studies show that women develop PTSD twice as often as men.
This increased incidence in women may be due to the types of trauma they suffer. Experts are finding that the COVID-19 pandemic has led to more PTSD in women. Healthcare providers are seeing more women with health problems.
The 2020 Mental Health of Children and Young People Survey found gender differences. The mental health disorder rate in young women was 27.2 percent compared to 13.3 percent in young men. Once again, this demonstrates the higher level of response in women.
Main Causes of PTSD for Women
A person’s response to an event is unique. Many people might witness or be involved in a similar circumstance. Yet, they won’t all have the same emotional outcome.
It’s important to consider each person’s feelings and how the experience affects their life. Sexual assault and child sexual abuse are more common triggers for PTSD in women. They also have higher rates of domestic violence or sudden death of a loved one than men.
For men, PTSD trauma often stems from an accident, combat, or physical assault. Other causes include disasters and witnessing injury or death first-hand.
PTSD Symptoms in Women
The signs of PTSD are the same in both men and women. But some occur more often in women. The following summarizes the symptoms women tend to report with PTSD.
This involves staying away from places, things, or sounds that remind you of the event. Individuals also try to stop any thoughts or feelings about what traumatized them.
This behavior describes avoidance. The person practices this to try and protect themselves emotionally.
Hyperarousal and Reactivity
With PTSD, many people feel constantly on guard and are easily startled. They’re always anxious, tense, or “on edge”, and quickly respond with angry outbursts. This emotional state interferes with sleeping, concentrating, relaxing, and task completion.
Numbness and Withdrawal
As the person tries to feel protected, they often withdraw and suppress emotions. This causes a feeling of numbness. They become detached from family, friends, and significant others.
As they “push down” their feelings, they often find it hard to remember details of the event. Many individuals develop negative thoughts about the world and lose interest in activities. They view themselves as “bad” and feel shame, guilt, and blame.
Flashbacks and nightmares are commonly reported among those with PTSD. Individuals say they can’t stop reliving the trauma over and over.
They repeatedly feel frightened and experience physical pain and symptoms. This can include heart palpitations, sweating, and anxiety.
Some people believe there’s no way to fix PTSD and that they must cope the best they can. In fact, there are now many successful treatment plans that help people find relief. Each plan of care is individualized to meet your unique needs.
It’s vital to find a medical professional to help you get the care you need. This may involve different treatment modalities based on what works best for you.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
EMDR therapy helps treat PTSD by focusing on the bad memory and reducing the symptoms. The goal is to change how the brain stores these traumatic events.
It uses eye movement and other types of bilateral (right and left) stimulation. This includes rhythmic taps or tones. While remembering the traumatic event, you undergo bilateral stimulation (BLS).
This desensitizes your responses. After each exercise, the therapist asks if you discovered any new thoughts. You continue these sessions until the memory stops causing distress.
During the “Installation” phase, you work on generating stronger positive thoughts. The “Body Scan” phase involves awareness of your body’s reaction when you think about the event. If you still have negative responses, you’ll repeat BLS until they resolve.
At the end of each session, the therapist will give you techniques to use. This helps you control negative reactions until the next session.
Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT)
TF-CBT involves between eight and 25 outpatient mental health sessions. CBT techniques change the way you think and respond to traumatic memories.
Treatment often includes family or significant others. This allows the therapist to work on family dynamics that may impact the issue. Everyone also learns about the strategies to improve cognitive and behavioral health.
Some individuals take antidepressants. This helps to regulate chemical imbalances that contribute to depressive symptoms.
Where to Go for PTSD Help
Are you unsure where to start in looking for PTSD help? The following list provides some places to call.
- Personal healthcare provider
- Social workers
- Mental health counselors
- Community mental health clinics
- PTSD support groups
- School, university, or hospital mental health services
Military veterans can attend programs at the local Veteran’s Administration. You can also call the Veteran’s Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 to find local help.
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