How PTSD affects men and women differently

Symptoms of post-traumatic stress manifest differently in men and women


By Rachel Engel

People experience traumatic events every day, some of whom begin experiencing symptoms of post-traumatic stress. When it comes to genders, though, do men and women display PTSD symptoms at the same rate and of the same variety? Or do they vary?

With the number of women pursuing careers as first responders and military service members increasing, so is the need to effectively study the effects of PTSD on women in those fields. Long-considered to be male-dominated careers, those professions are now shared by both genders, and the effects of PTSD related to on-the-job incidents can no longer focus solely on the male perspective.

(Photo/Pixabay)
(Photo/Pixabay)

Are men and women diagnosed with PTSD at different rates?

Research says that men are more likely to experience a traumatic event, but that women are more likely to suffer from post-traumatic symptoms from a traumatic event. In fact, in the general population, women are more than twice as likely at 10 percent to experience PTSD symptoms, compared to four percent of men who experience a similar traumatic event. When it comes to professions that are prone to receiving a PTSD diagnosis, however, rates among men and women are equal.

Does the type of traumatic event matter when it comes to gender?

The types of traumatic events that often lead to a PTSD diagnosis don’t change regardless of the gender of the person experiencing the event. Life threatening situations, such as military combat, natural disaster, terrorist incidents, medical accidents and physical or sexual assault are all examples experienced by both genders that can lead to PTSD symptoms and diagnosis.

Do PTSD symptoms differ between men and women?

While both genders do experience some of the same symptoms, there are others that are unique to men and women, depending on the type of traumatic event experienced, and their emotional response to it based on genetic makeup.

PTSD symptoms commonly seen in both:

  • Hyperarousal
  • Reliving the traumatic event
  • Susceptible to “triggers” that remind them of the event

PSTD symptoms commonly seen in men:

  • More likely to feel angry
  • Often unable to control their anger and emotions
  • More prone to abusing alcohol or drugs to deal

PTSD symptoms commonly seen in women:

  • More likely to be jumpy
  • Have trouble feeling emotions
  • More apt to avoid reminders of the trauma
  • Prone to developing anxiety or depression

These lists are simply guides based on the most recent research; it's entirely possible that men could experience symptoms designated as more common in women, and vice-versa. 

Should men and women be treated differently for PTSD?

New research in 2016 concluded that women experienced PTSD symptoms that differed from those of their male counterparts; however, more funding and research is needed to determine if different, specialized treatment for the genders would be beneficial and lead to increased healing for those diagnosed with PTSD. If, however, someone with PTSD is receiving treatment, but are only experiencing one of several generalized symptoms, instead of being treated for more severe symptoms not commonly associated with PTSD due to being female, that could lead to less effective treatment, and prevent healing.

 

PTSD resources for military veterans and first responders

"Once a Warror, Always a Warrior: Navigating the Transtion from Combat to Home"
A retired colonel, Dr. Charles W. Hoge discusses the difficulty of transitioning from military service to the civilian world, with the added stress of a war wound such as PTSD or TBI.

"Copshock: Surviving Posttraumatic Stress Disorder"
Read the stories of survivial from members of law enforcement as they tell their tales of heroism, diagnosis and healing. 

"When The Laughter Dies: A True Account of A Firefighter/EMT And His Struggles With PTSD"
He's just a guy, and through his book, he takes the reader through his time as a firefighter and his eventual diagnosis of PTSD. 

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