“Research indicates that women are twice as likely to develop PTSD, experience a longer duration of posttraumatic symptoms and display more sensitivity to stimuli that remind them of the trauma.Although women are at greater risk for negative consequences following traumatic events, many often hesitate to seek mental health treatment. Survivors often wait years to receive help, while others never receive treatment at all.”(2018 American Psychological Association)PTSD is shorthand for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.This condition presents in some people after they’ve endured a jolting, frightening, and dangerous event or chronic exposure to trauma. Of course, when faced with a traumatic situation, we naturally feel afraid — both during and afterward. The majority of such people will recover from the physical and psychological symptoms of trauma.Those who continue to feel fear and stress — when they are no longer in danger — may be diagnosed with PTSD.Women are far more likely to endure sexual assault and/or abuse. Thus, women run a higher risk for PTSD.

Is someone you know suffering? Do you think you might need help? Let’s consider the indicators.

Common Symptoms of PTSD in Women

PTSD can manifest differently in each person but there are commonalities. Among women, these are some of the most frequently observed symptoms:

1. Hyperarousal

As the word implies, hyperarousal occurs when a traumatized person’s physiology does not reset after the event. You stay in a state of high alert, with symptoms like sleep difficulties, agitation and irritability, anger, panic, and being easily startled. A hyperaroused woman with PTSD may also “re-experience” the trauma, e.g. nightmares, flashbacks, and intrusive memories. (see #4)

2. Hypervigilance

This symptom dovetails with hyperarousal. If you feel in steady danger, it naturally progresses into a sense of perpetual vigilance. Obviously, this is not a sustainable state and as a result, can lead to exhaustion and anxiety (see #7).

3. Re-Experiencing

Until treatment brings about some form of resolution, women with PTSD often find themselves in a situation where they feel as if they are reliving the trauma.

4. Numbing and Avoidance

The parallel sign of PTSD is the absence of anything “hyper.” You may feel numb. You may even consciously avoid feeling anything. But either way, it is representative of PTSD and carries the risk of deeper, related problems.

5. Dissociation

On the spectrum of avoidance is dissociation. Life feels unreal — as if you are a spectator more than a participant. Dissociation is a term that includes a wide range of states. What they have in common is a disconnect from real life, at this very moment. Your thoughts, memories, and even your identity become temporarily blurred.

6. Depression

Inevitably, the chronic impact of trauma can morph into other forms of emotional illness. One example is depression. There’s only so much fear and pain your mind and body can handle before common depression behaviors like dark moods, hopelessness, and isolation set it.

7. Anxiety and Panic

Anxiety and panic attacks are two other ways women with PTSD can find themselves with new symptoms and new diagnoses. The initial trauma lays a foundation for anxiety and panic. Over time, the lack of healing embeds these dangerous mindsets into your daily life.

Treating Women With PTSD

Awareness is essential. We must recognize and accept the unique challenge women face in a culture so influenced by abuse and sexual violence. Women’s voices must be heard and validated. Female practitioners can move to the forefront. Perhaps most importantly, women must be encouraged to seek help — despite the stigma.

The longer you wait, the greater chance of new symptoms and possibly new conditions appearing and impacting your life.

What’s the Best First Step for Women With PTSD?

PTSD often skews our self-perception. We lose perspective as to how we feel and what presents a true danger in our lives. Aligning ourselves with a skilled professional is a powerful and proven first step.

Your weekly therapy sessions become a safe space to more closely examine your fears and your responses to these real or perceived dangers. PTSD obviously challenges the day-to-day comfort zone of any woman dealing with it. Working with a trained therapist is where recovery begins. It’s also where a woman can go to manage setbacks and plateaus. Please contact me for a consultation soon.