PTSD impacts everyone differently. If you’re a man living with trauma, there are a few additional symptoms to be mindful of.
Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is a mental health condition that usually develops after a sudden traumatizing event or after repeated exposure to something traumatizing and upsetting.
If you have PTSD, you might find yourself withdrawing from others or having intense feelings of anger or sadness. You might also experience flashbacks of your traumatic experience or have intense nightmares.
For example, many veterans with PTSD experience flashbacks during fireworks displays or when they’re around loud noises, while victims of violence could have flashbacks triggered by an unexpected touch or a smell that reminds them of their attacker.
Anyone can experience PTSD. But some symptoms tend to be more common in men, and some treatment methods might work better for them, too.
Most people who experience a traumatic event heal from it without lasting impacts or symptoms in their daily life.
But someone who develops PTSD doesn’t have that same experience. Instead, the trauma leads to symptoms that persist and get worse over time, especially if left untreated.
They may persist for months, even years, without getting better. In many cases, they will start to interfere with your relationships and daily activities.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), around
Statistically, men are more likely than women to face at least one trauma during their lifetime. It’s estimated that 60% of men and 50% of women will face at least one traumatic event in their life.
However, women are twice as likely to develop PTSD.
Every case of PTSD is different, and no single factor is present in every case.
PTSD symptoms don’t necessarily differ across genders. However, there are specific traumatic experiences that are more likely to be experienced by men than women, and vice versa.
Men are more likely to be in combat or high-risk employment positions. Women are more likely to experience sexual abuse (though, to be clear, men can experience this too). These types of experiences can all lead to PTSD.
To receive a PTSD diagnosis,
- At least one intrusive or re-experiencing symptom, such as flashbacks, reliving the traumatic events, bad dreams, or persistent thoughts about the traumatic event.
- At least one avoidance behavior where you take steps to avoid potential triggers that could remind you of the traumatic event. This can also include changing your daily routine.
- At least two arousal and reactivity symptoms, such as frequently feeling on edge or on high alert, and having trouble managing your day-to-day tasks.
- At least two cognition and mood symptoms. For example, you might have strong feelings of guilt or personal blame for what happened, lose interest in activities that you used to enjoy, and be unable to remember significant details about the traumatic event.
In particular, men with PTSD often experience more difficulty controlling their anger and regulating their mood, compared to women with PTSD.
Substance use is more often seen in men with PTSD compared to women, as is withdrawal from friends and family.
If you believe that you may have PTSD, there are many resources and mental health professionals available to help you.
You may find it useful to seek help sooner rather than later because PTSD symptoms can worsen and further interfere with your daily life as time goes on.
When you meet with a mental health professional, they will want to discuss your symptoms and the traumatic moment, or time period, that you experienced.
They will help rule out other mental health conditions, such as anxiety or depression, which have some similar symptoms.
Once you have your diagnosis, they will discuss your treatment options.
Because PTSD can manifest differently from person to person, multiple treatment options are available. Your therapist will work with you to find the best one for your symptoms.
Try to be patient, as that process can take some time. Here are some of the treatment options they might consider with you:
Cognitive processing therapy
Cognitive processing therapy (CPT) is a type of talk therapy that aims to recontextualize how you view your traumatic event.
For example, it’s common for someone with PTSD to blame themselves for what happened or feel ashamed that they couldn’t prevent it from happening. CPT works to take this negative outlook and find ways to help minimize its influence over you.
Prolonged exposure (PE) is a method of PTSD therapy that lasts about 3 months and includes weekly visits with a therapist.
This type of therapy aims to slowly and gradually expose you to elements of your trauma in a safe and controlled environment. This approach may seem intimidating, or even scary, but your therapist will work with you to create the safest environment possible.
There are two types of prolonged exposure:
This method asks you to visualize and describe the details of your traumatic event. You will be encouraged to share in the present tense as you walk back through the traumatic event.
A recording is also made so that you can listen to yourself between sessions. By revisiting the traumatic event directly, the goal is to reduce fear and anxiety when thinking back on it.
It also gives you an opportunity to experience the emotions tied to the event in a way that feels more manageable, without overwhelming your nervous system.
In vivo exposure
This method focuses on the external elements of your traumatic event. If your trauma is associated with a place, item, or person, this type of exposure will gradually reintroduce you to those things in a nonthreatening way.
Between sessions, you will be encouraged to interact with these potential triggers at your own speed to help reduce the fear and anxiety around them.
Internal family systems (IFS)
In the case of complex trauma, or ongoing traumas that last for a period of months or years, internal family systems can be an effective treatment.
This treatment approach is focused on returning you to a state of wholeness, so you can integrate the parts of you (your “internal family”) that feel disconnected as a result of trauma.
You may find Janina Fisher’s work “Healing the Fragmented Selves of Trauma Survivors” to be useful.
This method focuses on the root of your challenges. It examines what unconscious beliefs or lessons you may have picked up in your life, and how they relate to your behavior in the present.
Research has shown that this method can be effective for those with
You may find it helpful to look up options near you using the Anxiety & Depression Association of America’s (ADAA) support group tool or through the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).
Since many of the symptoms of PTSD overlap with other mental health conditions, your mental healthcare professional may explore medication options with you.
The most commonly prescribed medications are antidepressants, like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), or anxiety medications to help you regulate some of the symptoms.
It’s important to remember that PTSD can happen to anyone. It isn’t specific to just one gender or type of person.
Developing PTSD isn’t your fault. The events that can lead to PTSD are often so much bigger than what we are typically able to cope with, and taking your first steps toward healing is a very courageous act.
There will always be kind and compassionate professionals — many of whom have struggled with PTSD themselves — who are ready to help you. You don’t have to battle PTSD alone. Recovery is possible.