Women, Trauma, and PTSD

Trauma is common in girls; five out of ten girls experience a distressing event. Girls tend to experience injuries that are different than guys. While both women and men report the exact same symptoms of PTSD child abuse PTSD (hyperarousal, reexperiencing, avoidance, and numbing), some symptoms are somewhat more normal for girls or guys.


Most early info on trauma and PTSD came from studies of male Veterans, mostly Vietnam Veterans. Women's experiences of injury may also cause PTSD. This finding led to more research on women's exposure to trauma and PTSD.

Risk of experiencing injury

Findings from a sizable national mental health study demonstrate that a little more than half of all women will experience at least one traumatic event in their life. Girls are slightly less likely to experience trauma than guys. The most typical trauma for women is sexual assault or child sexual abuse. About one in three women will experience a sexual assault within their life. Speeds of sexual assault are higher for girls than guys. Women are also more likely to experience domestic violence or mistreated in childhood, to be neglected, or to have a loved one suddenly perish.

What happens after trauma

After a trauma, some girls begin drinking or using medications, may feel depressed, or develop PTSD. Girls are more than twice as likely to develop PTSD than men (10% for women and 4% for men).

Girls are more likely to experience sexual assault.

Sexual assault is more likely to cause PTSD than a number of other events.

Girls may be more likely to blame themselves for injury experiences than guys.

Why are some women at higher risk for PTSD?

Not all girls who experience a traumatic occasion develop PTSD. Girls are much more likely to develop PTSD if they:

Have a previous mental health issue (for example depression or anxiety)

Experienced an extremely severe or life threatening injury

Were attacked

Were injured during the event

Had a serious reaction at that period of the occasion

Experienced other stressful events afterwards

Do not have great social support

What PTSD is like for women

Some PTSD symptoms are more common in women than guys. Girls are prone to be jumpy, to have more trouble feeling emotions, and to prevent things that remind them of the trauma than guys. Men are really somewhat more likely to have trouble controlling their anger then women and to feel angry. Women with PTSD are prone to feel anxious and depressed, while men with PTSD are more prone to have problems with alcohol or drugs. Both women and men who experience PTSD may develop physical health conditions.

Treatment for PTSD

There are good treatments for PTSD. Girls may be more likely than men to seek help after a distressing event. A minumum of one study found that girls react to treatment as well as or better than guys. This may be because women are generally more comfortable sharing feelings and talking with others than men about personal things.

Girls in the military

Women in the military are at high risk for exposure to traumatic events, especially during times of war. An increasing number of women are being subjected to fight, although men are more likely to experience combat. Women in the military are at higher danger of exposure to sexual harassment or sexual assault than men. Future studies are needed to better understand the effects of women's exposure to both battle and sexual assault.