Post-Traumatic Stress in Women

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychological condition that is caused by exposure to an event (or events) that are emotionally intense, uncontrollable, and traumatic. Most of us have heard about PTSD in soldiers who have experienced the violence of war, military conflicts, or insurgencies, but the truth is that all people can experience trauma and PTSD.

PTSD can impact military veterans, active duty service people, and civilians. All people who experience violent crimes, assault, natural disasters, accidents, and any other type of trauma are susceptible to acute stress disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. Traumas do not have to be obvious in order to cause PTSD. Lesser known traumas that may lead to PTSD include: childhood neglect, long-term bullying, domestic violence, or even sudden and drastic financial loss.

Over half of all women experience a traumatic event in their lifetimes. Statistically, 10% of those women go on to develop PTSD symptoms. Sexual assault is one of the top causes of PTSD in non-military women.1

What Causes PTSD in Women?

Researchers are still unsure why some people go on to experience acute stress disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder after a traumatic event. Findings do reveal that women are more likely to struggle with PTSD if they:

  • Have experienced an anxiety disorder or other untreated mental health concern in the past.
  • Were sexually assaulted
  • Experienced very severe or life-threatening traumas
  • Had an intense, severe reaction at the time of the event
  • Were physically harmed during the trauma
  • Experienced multiple traumas or stressful events
  • Did not have supportive friends, colleagues, or family
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Symptoms of PTSD

Trauma rewires the human brain and adapts it for survival of dangerous situations. All of the symptoms of PTSD are ways that the brain is attempting to adjust to better survive. Unfortunately, it is sometimes difficult to convince the brain that the danger is no longer immediately present, which is why most people seek PTSD treatment as soon as these uncomfortable symptoms begin.

Symptoms of PTSD include:
  • A strong desire to avoid reminders of the trauma
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Changes in mood, or difficulty trusting other people
  • Flashbacks that may manifest as nightmares or panic attacks
  • Anger management problems
  • Difficulty enjoying things that were once enjoyable
  • Difficulty managing emotions, or a feeling of numbness

Side-effects of PTSD may include:

  • Turning to drugs or alcohol to numb feelings or memories
  • Isolating from friends or loved ones
  • Changing social circles
  • Anger and rage
  • Physical illnesses
  • Sleep disorders

 

Can PTSD Be Treated?

civilian women suffering from ptsdGreat strides have been made in recent years in the treatment of PTSD. Modern trauma treatment typically involves a combination of counseling styles alongside medical treatment and coping skill development.

Treatment modalities such as cognitive behavior treatment (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) help women with PTSD gain confidence and mastery over physical and emotional responses to various triggers.

These programs are often available in either residential or outpatient treatment programs and can take anywhere from a couple of months to many years to complete. With the right help, however, women with PTSD should be able to overcome their pain and learn new ways to manage their emotions.
 


Sources

1 U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Women, Trauma, and PTSD. 13 Aug 2015.