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Women’s Mental Health: A Spotlight on PTSD

Ever notice how women are so-called “more emotional” than men? We all respond differently to emotional stress and some of those differences are, generally speaking, gender-specific.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a major emotional stress that many people suffer from. This article will focus on PTSD in women.

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What is PTSD?

The American Psychiatric Association defines Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as a traumatic event such as a natural disaster, a serious accident, a terrorist act, war/combat, or sexual assault or who have been threatened with death, sexual violence or serious injury.

PTSD affects nearly 3.5% of adults in the United States each year and can occur in people of any ethnic group. It had been estimated that 1 in 11 people will be diagnosed with PTSD in their lifetime.

Symptoms of PTSD include intrusive memories, avoidance, hypervigilance, changes in thinking and mood, and changes in behavior.

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How Women Usually Respond to Stress

So why do men and women respond differently? Hormones may be a factor. Men are more likely to react to stress by producing adrenaline and cortisol, which can produce sweaty palms and raise their heart rates. The hormones also trigger a “flight or fight” response.

Women react to stress by producing adrenaline and cortisol, plus oxytocin, a chemical known as the “love” hormone. Oxytocin promotes bonding and, as a result, women are likely to react to stress by reaching out for support and connection.

WOMEN ARE MORE THAN twice as likely to develop PTSD than men, experience a longer duration of PTSD symptoms, and are sensitive to stimuli that remind them of the trauma.

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PTSD in Women

According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, early findings regarding trauma in women originated from studies on males who were veterans of the Vietnam conflict. Researchers found that the psychological effects of sexual assaults on women were similar to the psychological effects of combat on men.

These findings led to more research on women’s exposure to trauma and PTSD.

The American Psychological Association reports that women are more than twice as likely to develop PTSD than men, experience a longer duration of PTSD symptoms, and are sensitive to stimuli that remind them of the trauma. Researchers believe this is because 1) women are more likely than men to experience sexual assault and 2) sexual assault causes PTSD more than other traumatic events, and 3) women are more likely to blame themselves for trauma experiences than men.

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Treatment

The American Psychological Association report that women are more likely than men to seek help from a traumatic event. Women respond to treatment as well as or better than men, possibly because women are generally more comfortable sharing their feelings than men.
However, there are some women who are more hesitant to seek mental health treatment. Survivors often wait years after the traumatic event before seeking treatment, while some may never seek treatment at all. This is due to feelings of shame associated with the event, often leading to self-blame.

Untreated PTSD symptoms not only impact one’s mental health but also their physical health. Female survivors may experience physical symptoms, which include headaches, gastrointestinal problems and sexual dysfunction.

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Get Help Today

Treatment is beneficial to both men and women. They are allowed a safe space to work on their issues regarding life traumas. Family members can be supportive by encouraging the survivor to seek help where help is needed, and be understanding of how she is responding to trauma.

If you or a loved one is suffering from trauma or other stress-related issues, seek professional help today.

Don’t hesitate to reach out to Ammirati Counseling to ask and inquire about support services that you can receive to help with overcoming feelings of depression, loneliness, stress or anxiety.

Ammirati Counseling is a boutique counseling group with an office in Bannockburnn serving Chicago. Therapists also offer private therapy via remote online. They provide comprehensive care to children, teens, adults, couples, families, and the LBGT community.
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