How PTSD Symptoms Differ in Women

Anyone can experience post-traumatic stress disorder. This condition isn’t limited to a certain gender. Furthermore, there is no standard “set” of symptoms that characterize PTSD. However, men and women often deal with slightly different symptoms. While there are no specific PTSD symptoms that are only found amongst men or women, some symptoms are more common in women.

The way that people experience trauma is often gendered in nature, which can lead to differing symptoms down the line. Let’s explore some PTSD symptoms that are more widespread among women who suffer from this disorder, as well as the possible roots of these symptoms.

Shame And Self-Blame

Women with PTSD are more likely to struggle with shame and self-blame than men with the same diagnosis. This is likely because women are socialized to take responsibility for the emotions of people around them. When something goes wrong, they are more susceptible to immediately directing the blame inwards and asking themselves what mistakes they made that could have caused this. Lots of women with PTSD carry a heavy burden of shame, even though trauma is never the victim’s fault.

Higher Risk Of Comorbidities

Many people with PTSD also struggle with other mental health conditions. After all, trauma can affect every area of one’s life. Someone with PTSD is especially susceptible to developing anxiety, depression, or another mental health issue. It’s especially common for women with PTSD to end up with comorbidities.

This can make it even harder to get help and start down the road to recovery. For example, suppose a woman has PTSD and severe anxiety. In that case, she may be so nervous about speaking to a professional that just scheduling a therapy session can be a difficult hurdle to overcome. A woman with both depression and PTSD might have very little energy to focus on making lifestyle changes.

Hyperarousal

PTSD can lead to a frustrating symptom known as hyperarousal, especially in women. Hyperarousal is a trauma response—your nervous system is on high alert, and your body is always aware of potential signs of danger. Someone with hyperarousal is very easily startled, even if they’re in a safe situation. The slightest noise can make you jump, and you might feel like you can never let your guard down.

Avoidance

Triggers are a very common experience among people with PTSD. The term “trigger” can refer to any stressor that reminds someone of their trauma and exacerbates these symptoms. This could include running into someone who was involved in the traumatic event, ending up in a place that reminds you of the environment where you were traumatized, or seeing a photo or video that brings up traumatic memories.

While men and women with PTSD will generally try to avoid encountering potential triggers, women are more prone to avoidance than men. This is a protective mechanism. However, although it can seem like a short-term solution, avoidance can actually worsen PTSD symptoms in the long run.

Emotional Numbness

Lots of women with PTSD struggle with emotional numbness. This numb response to outside events is another way that your body and mind try to protect you from intense emotions after living through trauma. Women tend to deal with this symptom more often than men, and it can manifest in a number of ways. You might feel like life is simply passing you by, and you don’t experience strong reactions anymore. Rather than feeling sad, you simply feel numb to the world.

Are you struggling with symptoms of PTSD? Working with a therapist can help. Reach out to us to discuss your options for scheduling your first session for therapy for women.