PTSD Symptoms in Women

Dr. Laura Tanzini

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental health term we’ve all heard, but do we truly understand what it means? Typically associated with combat veterans, this debilitating condition reaches far beyond the battlefield. It creeps into the lives of ordinary individuals, disrupting their daily routines, relationships, and overall mental wellbeing. And notably, it’s a condition that profoundly affects women, often in ways that differ from men.

In this article, we’ll discuss the different symptoms of PTSD, how often this happens, and the bad experiences that can cause this mental health problem. By sharing this information, we hope to help people understand PTSD better. 

Prevalence of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in Women

In the United States, PTSD is a prevalent condition affecting an estimated 24 million people. Intriguingly, women are twice as likely as men to develop PTSD, with 1 in 10 women exhibiting symptoms at some point. 

This surprising statistic often goes unnoticed, as PTSD research has traditionally focused on male combat veterans. 

However, with the increasing reports of women experiencing sexual trauma, it is essential to understand how PTSD uniquely affects the female population.

Types of Trauma Experienced by Women

The types of traumatic experiences that women often face differ from those commonly encountered by men. Women are more prone to certain types of trauma that, sadly, has become a pervasive part of their lived experiences.

By understanding the nature of these traumas, we can better comprehend the unique challenges women face, leading us to more effective and empathetic strategies for preventing, recognizing, and treating PTSD:

Trauma Related to Sexual Abuse and Assault

Sexual abuse and assault are traumatic experiences that disproportionately affect women. They inclnon-consensual sexual activities such as rape, attempted rape, sexual harassment, and inappropriate touching. 

The mental and emotional impact of sexual abuse or assault can be severe and long-lasting. It’s especially concerning when these traumatic events happen at an early age. The brain is in a crucial developmental stage during adolescence, and trauma can significantly disrupt this process. 

As a result, the impact of sexual abuse or assault at a young age can persist into adulthood, often manifesting as PTSD.

Domestic Violence Trauma

Domestic violence, another common source of trauma for women, involves physical, emotional, or sexual abuse within a domestic relationship. This can include a pattern of controlling behavior, physical violence, or sexual violence by a partner. 

Domestic violence’s recurring nature makes it particularly traumatic, leading to chronic stress and, in many cases, PTSD. Thus, domestic violence can affect every aspect of a woman’s life, from her mental and physical health to her socioeconomic status.

Trauma from Military Service

While traditionally associated with men, combat-related trauma is a growing concern for women who serve in the military. Exposure to violent combat situations, witnessing the death or injury of comrades, or experiencing sexual assault or harassment within the military can lead to PTSD. 

Women in the military face not only the typical risks associated with combat but also the added risk of military sexual trauma (MST), a significant contributor to PTSD in female veterans.

PTSD Symptoms in Women

To diagnose PTSD and other mental health problems, mental health professionals assess a variety of symptoms. While women and men can experience many of the same indicators, how these symptoms manifest and affect their daily lives can differ significantly. 

Here are the common symptoms observed in women with PTSD:

Intrusive Symptoms

Women with PTSD often grapple with intrusive symptoms that force them to relive their trauma repeatedly. These include:

  • Flashbacks: These involve reliving the traumatic event as if it were happening again.
  • Nightmares: Disturbing dreams related to the trauma can disrupt sleep and cause distress.
  • Uncontrollable Thoughts: Women may struggle to control their thoughts about the traumatic event, leading to heightened anxiety and discomfort.

Reactive Symptoms

  • Anxiety: A heightened state of worry and fear is common.
  • Angry Outbursts: PTSD can cause women to have sudden, intense episodes of anger.
  • Hypervigilance: Women may become overly sensitive to potential danger, leading to constant alertness that can be exhausting.

Emotional and Physical Symptoms

  • Insomnia: Difficulty falling or staying asleep can exacerbate other PTSD symptoms.
  • Emotional Numbness: Women may feel detached or emotionally numb, leading to a disconnection from others.
  • Loss of Interest: It’s not unusual for women with PTSD to lose interest in activities they once enjoyed.

The Silence Surrounding Trauma as a Mental Health Condition

Discussing a traumatic event can be challenging. It’s a common tendency for both men and women to evade conversations about their traumatic experiences as a coping mechanism. 

However, this avoidance can often stem from deeper, multifaceted reasons for women.

Feelings of Shame

For many women, the reluctance to discuss their trauma is linked to feelings of shame. The societal stigma surrounding their experiences can make them feel misunderstood or judged, leading to a self-imposed silence.

Avoidance as a Defense Mechanism

Constant reminders of a traumatic event can intensify the symptoms of PTSD. To prevent this, many women instinctively avoid discussing their experiences. They might also modify their activities and behaviors to dodge triggers that could remind them of the traumatic event.

The Role of Therapy with The Right Mental Health Professional

For many women with posttraumatic stress disorder, sharing their traumatic experiences can be crucial to their healing journey. Therapy, provided by competent mental health professionals at PTSD treatment centers, often entails open discussions with a counselor and occasionally with other survivors.

A PTSD diagnosis is a critical step toward recovery. It involves a comprehensive evaluation by a mental health professional, considering various symptoms, their duration, and their impact on the individual’s daily life.

Several therapies are commonly employed to treat PTSD, each offering unique benefits:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT is a popular form of talk therapy that aids patients in better understanding their traumatic experiences, its impacts, and the development of effective coping strategies. By discussing the traumatic event, it can provide clarity on what transpired and its ongoing effects, leading to improved mental health outcomes.
  • Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT): CPT focuses on modifying harmful thought patterns related to the traumatic event. It helps individuals challenge and alter these thoughts to reduce symptoms of PTSD.
  • Prolonged Exposure Therapy: This therapy aids individuals in confronting and gradually gaining control over the distressing thoughts and feelings related to their trauma. It involves recounting the traumatic experience to decrease fear and anxiety.
  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR): EMDR is a unique therapy where individuals focus on distracting stimuli while recounting the traumatic event. The aim is to lessen the distress linked with traumatic memories.

Experience Holistic Healing with Kinder in the Keys

Navigating life with PTSD can be daunting, but remember, you don’t have to go through it alone. Kinder in the Keys, a leading women’s PTSD treatment center, stands by to assist and support you every step of the way.

Customized Care Tailored to Address PTSD in Women

Every traumatic event, every symptom, and every coping mechanism is different. We appreciate these individual differences and have made it our mission to provide customized care that suits your needs.

Beyond Chemical Dependency

We are one of the country’s few non-chemical dependency or dual diagnosis mental health facilities. Our focus isn’t solely on treating symptoms; we aim for holistic wellbeing. This means we don’t just address the immediate issues but also strive to understand the underlying causes to provide a long-lasting solution.

A Safe Environment for Healing

Kinder in the Keys is dedicated to creating a nurturing and secure environment where you can openly discuss your trauma without fear of judgment. Our compassionate staff and comprehensive therapy methods will help you navigate your healing journey with confidence and resilience.

Embrace Your Journey to Recovery with Kinder in the Keys Today

If you or someone you know exhibits PTSD symptoms in women, remember that help is within reach. At Kinder in the Keys, we understand the unique challenges faced by women with PTSD and are equipped to provide comprehensive and tailored support to aid your recovery journey.

Call us at (866) 929-2085 to discuss your options and start your journey to recovery today.



Author Bio

Dr. Laura Tanzini, DrPh, MA, MFT

Dr. Laura Tanzini is a highly educated and accomplished professional with a background in biology and psychology. She received a BS in Biology from UC Riverside, an MA in psychology from Phillips Graduate Institute, and a Doctorate in Public Health with a specialty in Lifestyle Medicine from Loma Linda University.

Dr. Laura Tanzini is a Board Certified Professional Counselor, Integrative Medicine Clinician, and PTSD Clinician. She has worked in multiple medical hospitals, mental health institutions, and inpatient eating disorder clinics. Also, Dr. Tanzini has written scholarly papers and spoken on various topics related to nutrition, stress, menopause, obesity, depression, anxiety, and human development.