Girls, Trauma, and PTSD

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


Most early information on PTSD and injury came from studies of male Veterans, mainly Vietnam Veterans. Researchers began to examine the effects of sexual assault and found that women's reactions were similar to male combat Veterans. Women's experiences of injury may also cause PTSD.

Risk of experiencing trauma

Findings from a big national mental health study reveal that a little more than half of all women will experience a minumum of one traumatic event in their own life. Girls are slightly less likely to experience injury than guys. The most common trauma for women is sexual assault or child sexual abuse. About one in three women will experience a sexual assault in their lifetime. Speeds of sexual assault are higher for women than guys. Girls are also more inclined to be neglected or mistreated in childhood, to experience domestic violence, or to have a loved one suddenly expire.

What happens after injury

After a trauma, some women may feel depressed, start drinking or using drugs, or develop PTSD. There are a number of reasons women might get PTSD more than guys:

Women are more than likely to experience sexual assault.

Sexual assault is more likely to cause PTSD than many other events.

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

Why are some women at higher risk for PTSD?

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

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

Experienced an extremely severe or life threatening trauma

Were sexually attacked

Were injured during the occasion

Had a severe reaction during the period of the childhood trauma event

Experienced other stressful events afterwards

Do not have good social support

What PTSD is like for women

Some PTSD symptoms are more common in girls than men. Girls are more likely to be jumpy, to have more trouble feeling emotions, and to prevent things that remind them of the trauma than guys. Guys are prone to feel angry and to have trouble controlling their anger then women. Girls with PTSD are more likely to feel depressed and apprehensive, while guys with PTSD are more likely to own problems with alcohol or drugs.

Treatment for PTSD

There are excellent treatments for PTSD. Nonetheless, not everybody who experiences a trauma seeks treatment. Women may be more likely than men to find help after a traumatic event. At least one study found that girls respond to treatment as good as or better than men. This might be because girls are usually more comfortable sharing feelings and talking about personal things with others than men.

Girls in the military

Girls in the military are at high risk for exposure to traumatic events, particularly during times of war. Presently, about 15% of all military personnel in Iraq are women. A growing variety of girls are being exposed to battle, although men are somewhat more likely to experience battle. Women in the military are at higher risk for exposure to sexual harassment or sexual assault than men. Future studies are needed to better understand the effects of women's exposure to sexual assault and both fight.