The National Center for PTSD shows that more than half of all women are likely to experience at least one traumatic event in their life. This leads to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), signs of which can be slightly more nuanced in women as compared to men. The most common cause of stress among women is sexual abuse, which can have lasting implications. There are other causes of trauma, including accidents, emotional abuse, war, or anything beyond our ability to cope.
Women who have been through trauma might carry its burden for years to come, leaving them mentally and physically exhausted. Patients with PTSD often have co-occurring conditions like depression and anxiety. According to the American Psychological Association, women are more predisposed to experiencing a longer duration of PTSD. This mandates that we identify the common signs of PTSD in women to get them the help they need to get their life back on track.
The trauma you experience might manifest in the form of nightmares. Women who have been through any traumatic event might relive that event repeatedly, disturbing the quality of their sleep. 71% of people with PTSD have nightmares, and those with any mental illness are likely to have more vivid dreams. If you have recurring nightmares that disturb you, you might want to seek help.
The inability to sleep is another common effect of PTSD. Women who have been through a traumatizing event find it hard to let their guard down in order to fall asleep. Additionally, recurring disturbing nightmares also make sleep an unpleasant proposition. This can distract women from their daily activities as they are sleep-deprived. Some victims of PTSD might rely on drugs to fall asleep, which can incur the risk of substance use disorder.
Hyperarousal is a key symptom of PTSD. This is a pervasive mood that fluctuates from anger to irritability. In this condition, the mind is constantly in a ‘fight or flight’ mode. Women with this sign may be quickly aggravated and might exhibit anger and irritability. They are constantly on the defense and might even lash out at others without good reason. This life-altering symptom can affect personal relations.
4. Intrusive Thoughts
Victims of PTSD experience intrusive thoughts that may coax a severe reaction. These intrusive thoughts can result when a person gets distressing thoughts about the traumatic event with or without any reminder. These thoughts can appear when the person sees someone or something that reminds them of the traumatic event or completely randomly too. For example, a person who’s been in a serious accident might panic in a car or even at home without any obvious reminder of the accident in sight.
Flashbacks are a crippling effect of PTSD. Women who have been through a traumatic event often relive the same trauma and stress, just as if the same thing is happening to them all over again. As a result, they may start to panic and even get aggressive at the slightest provocation. These flashbacks are often sparked by a scent or place associated with the traumatic event they faced. Women with PTSD can practice breathing exercises to distract and calm themselves during this episode.
6. Avoiding Certain People Or Places
People who have been through trauma often practice the avoidance technique. They might refuse to interact with certain people or go to places that evoke memories of what happened, rendering them withdrawn and antisocial. While this may sound like a natural response, it doesn’t help people with PTSD. These behaviors will get worse with time, requiring professional intervention.
7. Tendency to Blame
Women with PTSD are still grappling with the ramifications of trauma, due to which they constantly try to make sense of why it happened. This inability to accept and the need to comprehend the event makes them cast blame on themselves or others. They might blame themselves for the death of a loved one or blame the driver, say, in the event of an accident. This can often result in aggressive behaviors towards the people they place blame on, including the possibility of self-harm.
8. Negative Emotions
Negative alterations in mood are required for a PTSD diagnosis. Women who have experienced a traumatic event tend to experience the most negative emotions. They might become angrier and more irritable. They may lose interest in activities they previously liked. People living with PTSD become overly paranoid and might start doubting everyone around them. It’s hard to come out of this negative cycle, and you might find it almost impossible to regulate positive emotions yourself.
9. Startle Easily
Victims of trauma tend to startle easily. They might display an exaggerated response, like jumpiness at the slightest sound. This response stems from their state of constantly being on-guard. Women who experienced childhood abuse, which is a huge trauma, tend to display increased startle reactivity in adulthood.
10. Memory Loss
PTSD tends to impair learning and memory. This is often believed to be a physical response, but it’s actually a way the brain copes with what happened. Memory loss is the body’s defense mechanism against a traumatic event. If you start to experience memory loss, you should speak to a professional before the problem exacerbates.
How To Deal With PTSD?
If you or anyone close to you experiences some or all of the signs above, you should seek professional help. There are many PTSD treatment centers available to offer you the assistance you need to regain control of your life. Many people make the mistake of assuming these signs will go away on their own, which is a rarity. Untreated PTSD can lead to permanent damage to the brain and leave you to deal with the stress of the traumatic event for years, or the rest of your life.
It’s best to seek help at a reliable PTSD treatment center. The medical professional you choose will understand your case and recommend PTSD therapies like Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT), Prolonged Exposure Therapy (PET), Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), or medicines depending on the severity and duration of your condition.