Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is an anxiety disorder that some people develop after they are involved in a terrifying or traumatic ordeal. Experiencing trauma can be very stressful for both men and women, and PTSD can develop in some people after these events.
People with PTSD often experience vivid flashbacks and nightmares connected with the event. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (2009), PTSD in women is more common than PTSD in men. In fact, women are twice as likely to develop PTSD after a frightening event as men are, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
Women and PTSD
So why is PTSD in women more common? One easy explanation is that perhaps it’s not really more common Ã‘ women with PTSD may simply be more likely to seek treatment than men are. However, women are far more likely than men to experience sexual assault, one of the most common triggers of PTSD.
In addition, women have a higher risk of developing PTSD if they:
- Do not have a strong support network of family and friends
- Experienced a severe or life-threatening ordeal
- Have other mental health issues, like anxiety or depression
- Reacted strongly to the event as it was occurring
- Were injured in the event
- Were sexually assaulted.
Men with PTSD are likely to be angry and irritable. Women, on the other hand, are far more likely to be jumpy, anxious and depressed, and are more likely to feel numb or emotionally closed off and avoid thinking about or talking about their trauma. However, women are less likely than their male counterparts to turn to substance abuse as a way of dealing with PTSD.
Women Veterans: PTSD
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (2010) reports that as of 2008, 11 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan military veterans were women, and close to 20 percent of those women have been diagnosed with PTSD. Although all veterans who see combat are at risk for developing PTSD, female members of the military deal with unique feelings and experiences that may contribute to women veterans’ PTSD.
First, women are not always trained for combat. But in Iraq and Afghanistan, they may find themselves in a combat zone. They may be injured, or see others wounded and dying. This kind of trauma leaves a mark that haunts them long after they return home. In addition, female military personnel may receive unwanted sexual attention or may be sexually assaulted.
Even if a female member of the military avoids combat and assault, she may still be traumatized by her military experience. Some women have trouble forming relationships with other service members. Others worry about being away from their children for extended periods of time. These feelings of loneliness, worry and guilt can cause undue stress, which leads to problems such as PTSD when they return to civilian life.
Davis, G.C. (2007). Are women at greater risk for PTSD than men? Retrieved May 25, 2010, from www.healthyplace.com/anxiety-panic/main/are-women-at-greater-risk-for-ptsd-than-men/menu-id-69/.
National Institute of Mental Health. (2009). Post-traumatic stress disorder. Retrieved May 25, 2010, from www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-easy-to-read/index.shtml.
United States Department of Veterans Affairs Staff. (2010). Traumatic stress in women veterans. Retrieved May 25, 2010, from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs website: www.ptsd.va.gov/public/pages/traumatic-stress-female-vets.asp.
United States Department of Veterans Affairs. (2010). Women, trauma and PTSD. Retrieved May 25, 2010, from www.ptsd.va.gov/public/pages/women-trauma-and-ptsd.asp.