August 2014

Active ImageStress Disorders More Common In Women

A recent article published by Psychological Bulletin suggests that men and women respond to stress very differently. The article states that while men experience more traumatic events than women, women are more likely to develop posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) than men.

Men and women respond to trauma and stress differently. The researchers suggest that it may however be the criteria used to diagnose PTSD that may help explain why the PTSD rates are higher in women.

PSTD is an anxiety disorder which can developed after an individual experiences some kind of traumatic event. The symptoms PSTD can include flashbacks or a re-experiencing of the trauma, sleep problems, nightmares, panic attacks, and depression. These events can trigger strong emotional reactions and it is these emotional reactions which often differ between men and women. "So even though men may experience more traumas, they don't seem to have the same emotional responses to traumatic events," the researchers say.

Because of these decreased emotional responses men are less likely to experience anxiety or depression, instead they are more likely to report behavior or drug problems after trauma. Men are also more likely to become irritable, angry, or even violent after experiencing a traumatic event.

The article examines the work of a group of researchers who reviewed 290 studies, conducted between 1980 and 2005, to determine who is more at risk for potentially traumatic events and PTSD — men or women. As suggested above the results pointed out that while men have a higher risk of experiencing traumatic events, women have higher rate of PTSD. The review found that women were more likely to have experienced sexual assault and child sexual abuse, but less likely to have experienced accidents, nonsexual assaults, disaster or fire, combat or war, or to witness death or injury. The researchers suggested that sexual trauma may cause more emotional suffering and be more likely to cause posttraumatic stress disorder than other types of trauma.

The article also suggested that women still had higher PTSD rates than men when both sexes were compared on the same type of trauma. For example, female survivors of motor vehicle accidents were more likely to report symptoms of PTSD than male survivors. They concluded from this that since women experiencing more than one type of trauma this may make women more prone to PTSD than men. "The data suggest that the female victims will have brought to the table a much greater risk of abuse and sexual assault prior to the accident; this could place them at higher risk of developing PTSD after the accident even though the current accident may not have caused all the symptoms," says researchers David Tolin, PhD, of the University of Connecticut School of Medicine. Another research suggested, "Understanding that responses to trauma vary by gender as well as by individual should help experts develop better tools for diagnosing posttraumatic stress disorder in both men and women."

Comments by Wellness On the Web Editor, Allen Lawrence, M.D.

The above article provided some interesting information but neglects to consider some extremely important factors. Women tended to experience more personally directed violence and trauma, that is trauma directed at them personally rather than simply accidental or environmental. Child abuse and sexual abuse are extremely personal and are usually done either at a very early age or through over powering, lie-threatening violence. While one cannot dismiss the trauma that might occur in an auto accident, or during a work-related injury or even during way, these tend to be more random acts of violence and not specifically directed at the person. True this is entirely subjective as an individual may interpret the experience as personal but comparing child abuse or rape to a random event clearly one can suggest that the sexual violence is much more personal and life-threatening in the moment.

Genetically, men were hunters or farmers, miners and warriors. Men were raised from childhood to know that they lived in dangerous times and that there were always dangers and treat of life and limb about them. Women, on the other hand, while they also knew this, lived in a more cloistered and protected environment. The had their husbands, sons and male villagers to protect them. They spent their days performing nurturing tasks such as child-bearing, child-raising, cooking, gathering, cleaning, maintaining the home. While danger was always possible it was rarely imminent. The opposite of course was true of men, where danger from injury or marauding bandits or tribes was an everyday potential. Over ions of generations the nervous systems of men and women developed differently. Not one better than the other, just differently. It is likely that it is because of these differences that women experience trauma differently than mem. It is also likely that the difference in the types of trauma personal versus random or impersonal could make a difference.

The nervous system of men and women are different. This is a reality that we all recognize. The fact that women have greater difficulty experiencing PTSD should only tell us that the types of trauma women face are significant and that we as a society must do something to take responsibility for allowing abuse against any child, male or female and rape against anyone also male or female. The results of this study while important for creating new testing devices and even forms of therapy are great, BUT more importantly they suggest that as a society were are doing a very poor job with dealing with abuse and rape. It we understand how and why men and women are traumatized and we do something about this, then we will have less PTSD and less issues regarding testing for and diagnosing it.

PTSD is really nothing more than stress, possilble to an extreme but still it is about stress and the stress reaction. Like stress PTSD, if not resolved can lead to Stress-Related Disorders. For more information about Stress and Stress-Related Disorders, click here.

To purchase Stress-Related Disorders, Illness An Intelligent Act of the Body, click here.


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