Unfortunately, many clinicians struggle to understand how PTSD affects women because it’s a mental injury not a mental illness. While PTSD is prevalent today, clinicians aren’t equipped or confident enough to deal with it. Instead, men who are diagnosed with PTSD after combat are more prevalent. This is sad considering that women are two times more likely than men to develop PTSD. In fact, 10 – 12% of women will develop PTSD while only 5 – 6% of men do.
Understanding What PTSD Is
PTSD is defined by the American Nurses Foundation as “a mental health condition that develops as a reaction to and re-experiencing of a traumatic event.” Symptoms include anxiety, flashbacks, nightmares, and uncontrollable thoughts about the trauma. According to the Archives of Psychiatric Nursing PTSD typically results in anxiety, depression, isolation, and negative problem solving.
The Difference Between Simple PTSD and Complex PTSD
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders formally recognizes PTSD. However, this is a broad category with a wide range of symptoms that were built upon the idea that PTSD was caused by a singular traumatic event (e.g. military trauma, earthquake, school shooting). This form of PTSD is what’s known as “simple PTSD.”
On the other hand, complex PTSD occurs when a person is exposed to repeated circumstances (prolonged trauma) that cause them to no longer feel safe in the world. Oftentimes these are interpersonal experiences that start in childhood. Behavioral and physical symptoms are more common here whereas simple PTSD is more psychological in nature.
Why Women are More Likely to Develop PTSD, Especially CPTSD
PTSD is a protective mechanism that develops to keep a person safe from harm. Herein the nervous system grows hypervigilant in monitoring a person’s surroundings for threats to their safety.
The CDC-Kaiser Permanente Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) study discovered that women are more likely to experience the types of events that result in CPTSD. These typically begin in childhood.
Women are more likely to report abuse, neglect, and other adverse circumstances within their family. The statistics here are surprising:
- 13.1% of women are emotionally abused; 7.6% of men are emotionally abused
- 24.7% of women are sexually abused; 16% of men are sexually abused
- 23.3% of women grow up with a family member who has a mental illness; 14.8% of men grow up with a family member who has a mental illness
Stressors like these take a toll on women’s health. Understanding PTSD is a vital first step in helping women heal from their trauma. Helping women celebrate the beauty inside of them, including embracing the PTSD, is an integral part of the journey. To learn more about how you can do this, pick up a copy of Celebrating the Woman God Created You to Be today.