Girls, Trauma, and PTSD

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


Most early information on PTSD and injury came from studies of male Veterans, mainly Vietnam Veterans. Researchers found that women's reactions were similar to male fight Veterans and began to study the effects of sexual assault. Women's experiences of trauma can also cause PTSD. This finding led to more research on women's exposure to trauma and PTSD.

Risk of experiencing trauma

Findings from a sizable national mental health study show that a bit more than half of all women will experience at least one traumatic event in their life. Girls are somewhat less likely to experience trauma than guys. The most frequent trauma for women is child sexual abuse or sexual assault. About one in three girls will experience a sexual assault in their lifetime. Rates of sexual assault are higher for women than men. Girls PTSD child abuse are also more likely to be neglected or abused in youth, to experience domestic violence, or to have a loved one unexpectedly die.

What happens after trauma

After a trauma, some girls develop PTSD, begin drinking or using medications, or may feel depressed. Girls are more than two times as likely to develop PTSD than men (10% for women and 4% for men). There are a few reasons women might get PTSD more than men:

Girls are more likely to experience sexual assault.

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

Women may be more inclined to blame themselves for trauma experiences than guys.

Why are some women at higher risk for PTSD?

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

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

Experienced a very severe or life-threatening injury

Were assaulted

Were injured during the event

Had a severe response at the period of the occasion

Experienced other stressful events afterwards

Do not have good social support

What PTSD is like for women

Some PTSD symptoms are more prevalent in girls than men. Girls are prone to have more trouble feeling emotions to be jumpy, and to prevent things that remind them of the injury than guys. Guys are really somewhat more likely to have trouble controlling their anger then women and to feel upset. Women with PTSD are more prone to feel depressed and anxious, while guys with PTSD are prone to possess issues with substances or alcohol. Both men and girls who experience PTSD may develop physical health problems.

There are good treatments for PTSD. Girls may be more likely than men to find help after a distressing event. At least one study found that girls react to treatment as good as or better than guys. This may be because girls are usually more comfortable talking about private things with others than men and sharing feelings.

Girls in the military

Now, about 15% of all military personnel in Iraq are women. An increasing variety of women are being exposed to combat, although men are somewhat more likely to experience combat. Future studies are needed to better understand the effects of women's exposure to both battle and sexual assault.