Women are nearly twice as likely as men to develop PTSD in their lifetimes.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can happen to anyone who has experienced or witnessed a traumatic event.
Although PTSD is often associated with military service members, it can affect anyone who experienced a traumatic event, such as:
- sexual assault
- natural disasters
- car accidents
Women in particular may experience PTSD differently from men. They could be
Women may also
In the United States, almost
Although most people who experience trauma don’t develop PTSD, women are about twice as likely to develop it as men.
Since people process trauma very differently, each person’s experience of PTSD is unique to them. This means everyone will have slightly different symptoms.
You might relive the event through nightmares or flashbacks. Common reexperiencing symptoms include:
- flashbacks or reliving the trauma over and over, including feeling physical symptoms or pain
- frightening thoughts
Reexperiencing the trauma can also cause physical symptoms like sweating, heart palpitations, and anxiety.
Sounds, objects, and places that remind you of the traumatic event can cause avoidance. For example:
- avoiding places, situations, or things that remind you of the traumatic experience
- avoiding thoughts or feelings related to the traumatic event
Arousal and reactivity
These symptoms are often constant. They can make it challenging to complete daily tasks, like concentrating, sleeping, or relaxing.
Examples of these symptoms include:
- being easily startled
- feeling tense, anxious, or “on edge”
- difficulty sleeping
- experiencing angry outbursts
Cognition and mood symptoms
Cognition and mood symptoms often begin or worsen after the traumatic event and can make you feel detached from friends and family members. These symptoms include:
- trouble remembering key details of the traumatic event
- negative thoughts about the world or yourself
- feelings of guilt, blame, or shame
- loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed
A 2015 study involving PTSD symptoms in active military duty personnel found that women expressed more distress than men across almost all signs of the study’s PTSD checklist, except hypervigilance. Overall, women scored higher on:
- reexperiencing the traumatic event
- feeling emotionally numb
While women may
To get a PTSD diagnosis, you’ll need to have symptoms for at least 1 month. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), these symptoms must be severe enough to affect your ability to function at work and home.
In addition, you must have all the following symptoms for at least 1 month for a PTSD diagnosis to apply:
- at least one reexperiencing symptom
- at least one avoidance symptom
- at least two arousal and reactivity symptoms
- at least two cognition and mood symptoms
A mental health professional can diagnose PTSD. While it’s expected to have some of these symptoms for a few weeks after a traumatic event, it’s considered PTSD when symptoms last longer than a month and affect your ability to function as usual.
Any dangerous, life threatening, or upsetting life event, trauma, or situation can increase the risk of PTSD.
The more serious the trauma — or the more directly it affected you — the higher the risk of developing PTSD afterward. Everyday situations that can cause PTSD include:
- Violent crimes: surviving or witnessing violent crimes such as shooting, mugging, abuse, or sexual assault
- A loved one in danger: hearing or seeing someone close to you, such as a child, partner, or relative, experience a trauma
- Sudden death or illness: witnessing the accidental death, violent death, or serious illness of a loved one
- War: being exposed to combat or warfare, either through military service or as a civilian
- Accidents: being involved in any sort of serious accident, such as car accidents, plane or train crashes, sports accidents, or any other type of traumatic accident
- Natural disasters: living through hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, floods, fires, or any other type of serious natural disaster
While there is
This is likely because women may experience specific types of trauma more often. For instance, women are more likely to experience sexual assault and sexual abuse.
According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, almost 91% of sexual assault survivors are women.
The main treatments for PTSD are medication and therapy. Since PTSD affects everyone so differently, treatment will likely be personalized to address your specific symptoms.
Treatment can last weeks, months, or longer and may include:
- Cognitive processing therapy (CPT). CPT is a type of talk therapy that’s often used to help people heal PTSD and related symptoms.
Researchinvolving women with complex PTSD found CPT was an effective care approach for PTSD symptoms.
- Prolonged exposure therapy. Another form of talk therapy in which a therapist walks you through the traumatic event, prolonged exposure therapy can help you confront the trauma.
- Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy. In EMDR, you talk about the trauma while focusing on a specific visual item to help you process traumatic memories and change how you react.
- Medication. Medications, like antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications, may also be part of your treatment to manage PTSD symptoms.
If you’re looking for more info on trauma recovery, here’s a good place to start.
In the past decade, progress in researching how PTSD affects us has led scientists to focus on better understanding the underlying causes of trauma.
It can be challenging to find support after a traumatic event. Caring for yourself and others is especially important after experiencing trauma.
If you’re unsure where to go for help, you can always check in with your primary care physician. You can also search online for social services, hotlines, or mental health professionals for resources on how to get further help.