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PTSD? Understanding Symptoms in Women

This week I bring you a guest blog post from Alaina Curry.

What do you envision when you hear the acronym PTSD? Do you think of that older vet who drinks all day long to escape from reality and ducks every time he hears a loud noise? What about that young woman who flinches whenever someone goes to touch her? These are just a few of the stereotypical cases of how PTSD is displayed. However, PTSD symptoms can manifest differently in both men and women.

What is PTSD?

Post-traumatic stress disorder, otherwise known as PTSD, is a mental disorder caused by someone experiencing a traumatic event that causes severe distress. Some of the symptoms include avoidance of situations, people, places, and things along with intrusive thoughts, mood swings, irritability, outbursts, and reckless and destructive behavior. Matthias Barker, a well-known psychotherapist on TikTok specializing in PTSD, ADHD, anxiety, and marriage issues, explains that trauma is not measured by its severity but by surprise. Meaning that two people could experience the same event, and one person will be fine while the other person develops PTSD. He said that this is because of your expectations of the world. Some people have higher expectations, which causes them to be surprised that a traumatic event had happened to them—in turn, causing PTSD. Although men and women can experience PTSD, women are twice as likely to develop the disorder than men. Also, the symptoms that women exhibit are different than that of men. So why are women more susceptible and exhibit other symptoms than their male counterparts?

Women, The Emotional Ones

There's no doubt that women are categorized as being more emotional than men. Society has stereotyped women as being more feminine, nurturing, and accomodating. I think we all realize that this is not the case in our day to day lives. Even though we understand that these stereotypes are not always accurate, we continue to act in these ways because society has ingrained them into our subconscious since we were children. The same can go for men, where they are stereotyped as masculine, aggressive, and insensitive. In other words, it's not that women are more susceptible to PTSD, but that their symptoms are more in-line with the disorder, which causes a higher rate of diagnoses.

According to the American Psychological Association, women are more likely to experience sexual assault and child sexual abuse. Men are more likely to experience accidents, non-sexual assault, witness death or injury, disaster, and war. Even though men are more likely to experience a higher number of traumatic events, women are diagnosed with PTSD more often. This could mean that sexual assault and child sexual abuse could be more emotionally traumatizing than other events.

Symptoms Of PTSD In Men Vs. Women

Women who meet the criteria of PTSD show symptoms of anxiety and depression and tend to think that something is wrong with them. They become more avoidant of situations that could trigger an episode and have a hard time dealing with their emotions. The main difference between PTSD symptoms in men and women is that women deal with emotional problems, and men deal with behavioral issues. Violent outbursts, anger, and drug and alcohol abuse are all considered behavioral issues. Drug and alcohol abuse alone can cause other problems such as addiction. As stated before, women exhibit symptoms that can be easily recognized as PTSD, but not so much for men.

How To Help Someone Who Shows Signs Of PTSD

Remember, if you are not someone who can diagnose mental disorders, do not assume someone has one. However, there are ways in which you can help someone who shows one or more of the above symptoms:

1) Show social support

Let this person know that you are there for them if they need someone. It's nice to be reminded that there are people who care about them, and PTSD can be a lonely journey. Spend time with them and treat them like any other average person. Just because they have or show signs of a mental disorder doesn't mean they're any less of a person.

2) Educate yourself

When someone shows signs or has PTSD, it's crucial to become educated on the disorder. That way you'll be able to recognize when someone is having a difficult time coping with the symptoms and what you can do to help. Not to mention, you'll become more compassionate in your response to them because you will understand to an extent what they are going through. Also, educate yourself on their specific triggers and learn coping mechanisms for these triggers.

3) Encourage them to seek professional help

Symptoms of PTSD can get out of control if professional help is not received. Before it gets to this point, talk to them about your concerns and reassure them that you care and want the best for them. Professional help is one of the best ways to successfully recovery from PTSD.

4) Remember, it takes time!

Would you expect someone to heal a broken bone in a few days? Probably not. Mental disorders are like this too. It takes a significant amount of time and energy to recover from PTSD, so don't be surprised when they haven't recovered as soon as you think they would. Recovery can take years, and sometimes it still doesn't go away or may come back if another event triggers it. Be patient, show support, love this person with all your heart!

PTSD can be debilitating both mentally and physically. Although symptoms are shown differently in men and women, they still show distress. Recognize the signs of PTSD so you can offer support and encourage them to seek help. Remind them that things will get better with time.

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