Trauma comes in many forms, and the impact of triggering events can have a negative effect on your physical health and mental well-being long after they occur. The development of symptoms in the aftermath of exposure to one or more traumatic events is known as posttraumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), PTSD commonly occurs in individuals who have witnessed a natural disaster, terrorist incident, sudden death of a loved one, violent assault, or other life-threatening events.
Women and girls who are struggling with trauma and PTSD generally experience considerable emotional distress caused by unpleasant memories that may lead to altered thought processes and changed behavior patterns.
What Are the Signs of Trauma & PTSD?
Experiencing trauma can spur a variety of unpleasant memories. You may have recurrent, involuntary, and intrusive recollections of the event or events you’re trying to suppress.
Once feelings of sadness, fear, and regret become more permanent emotions around a traumatic event, you may need to seek out professional care for posttraumatic stress disorder.
Some common signs that a woman or girl has been significantly impacted by trauma and may be at risk for developing PTSD include:
- Withdrawal from family and friends
- Engaging in reckless or self-destructive behavior
- Quick temper
- Aggressive verbal behavior
- Avoiding people, places, or situations that cause reminders of the traumatic experience
What Are the Symptoms of Trauma & PTSD?
The symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder mean that a woman or girl has progressed beyond warning signs from the trauma that is affecting her. If you notice or hear about any of the following symptoms, it’s time to help her find appropriate professional care.
- Heightened sensitivity to potential threats
- Tightness in the chest
- Startled responses or jumpiness
- Trouble concentrating or retaining information
- Out-of-body experiences (depersonalization)
- Recurring feelings of danger or dread
Common Causes & Risk Factors of Trauma & PTSD
We know what the most common cause for PTSD is: experiencing one or more traumatic events. But there are definite risk factors, both environmental and genetic, that increase a woman’s or girl’s likelihood of developing posttraumatic stress disorder after experiencing a trauma. These include:
- Environmental: Lower socioeconomic status, less education, exposure to prior trauma, childhood adversity
- Genetic: Females are more like to develop PTSD than males, family history of behavioral health concerns
Trauma & PTSD Statistics
PTSD is commonly associated with military and combat experience, but trauma can be the result of any number of situations and can impact anyone. The following are some commonly shared statistics about trauma and posttraumatic stress disorder:
- About six out of every 10 men and five out of every 10 women will experience a trauma in their lives, according to the National Center for PTSD.
- More than eight million Americans age 18 and older have PTSD during a given year, according to the ADAA.
- The ADAA also notes that 67% of people exposed to mass violence have been shown to develop PTSD, which is a higher rate than those exposed to natural disasters or other traumatic events.
- The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) observed that from 2001-2003, the prevalence of PTSD among adults was considerably higher for women (5.2%) than men (1.8%).
Effects of Trauma & PTSD
If you fail to receive proper care for posttraumatic stress disorder or the effects of trauma, you run the risk of a variety of negative outcomes. The longer a woman or girl goes without professional intervention, the more severe the effects of trauma and PTSD can be.
Some of the most common effects include:
- Damaged or broken relationships
- Inability to maintain employment or keep up in school
- Financial concerns or homelessness
- Legal problems due to reckless or violent behaviors
- Abuse of alcohol or other drugs
- Suicidal ideation or behaviors
- Onset of symptoms of other disorders
What Happens If Trauma & PTSD Symptoms Return?
The triggering events of your past don’t just disappear. That means that recovery from trauma and posttraumatic stress disorder is often a lifelong journey.
If you are confronted with reminders of the trauma you experienced, or even run into a trigger that stimulates the sights, sounds, or smells of something negative from your past, distressing PTSD symptoms can return. The important thing is being prepared to handle them.
Having a list of coping mechanisms is a good start. Being able to write down where you are, what triggered your memory, and how you felt can also be helpful.
Perhaps most importantly, working with a team of professionals lets you understand how to manage the situation if your PTSD symptoms return. You’ll develop positive relationships that can help in both the short and long term, and you’ll meet women and girls who have navigated similar experiences.
Common Underlying or Co-Occurring Disorders
Many women and girls who are struggling with the effects of trauma or posttraumatic stress disorder also develop other mental health conditions or substance use concerns. Overlapping diseases can lead to overwhelming struggles.
The licensed therapists and other mental health specialists at Timberline Knolls are no strangers to the severity of co-occurring disorders. While working to help you on your recovery journey from trauma or PTSD, they’ll help address any other challenges you face along the way.
This content was reviewed and approved by the clinical staff at Timberline Knolls.