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:
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)
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).
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.
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.
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.
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