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PTSD Affects Men and Women Differently

By Samantha Rogers

Researchers now realize that there are important differences in the way Posttraumatic Stress Disorder affects men and women. They have found that women with PTSD are more likely to suffer from the following symptoms and health conditions than men with PTSD:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Avoidance and numbness
  • Gastrointestinal effects
  • Arthritis
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Reproductive effects
  • Cancer
  • Low blood pressure
  • Fatigue

Men with PTSD are more likely to experience the following symptoms than women:

  • Anger
  • Irritability
  • Substance abuse

Researchers believe these discrepancies are the result of physiological differences in brain structure and functioning.  PTSD causes a change in the stress response in the brain including lowering levels of cortisol, a stress hormone.  This can cause more negative health effects for women who naturally already have lower levels of cortisol.

Researchers have also found an overreaction in women’s immune systems, chalking it up to gender differences in cell pathway signaling.  This increased immune response can cause inflammation throughout the body, contributing to several serious conditions.

This research has some important implications for the effectiveness of treatment for each gender.  For instance, SSRI effectiveness seems to depend on serotonin and estrogen levels, which can lead to different results by gender and age.  Eventually treatment plans may become more gender-specific, producing better results for recovery.

Though fewer women see combat than men do, women’s rates of PTSD increase due to other traumatic events more common for women, such as rape and assault.  No matter the gender of the person suffering from PTSD, there are several ways of coping with it. Type “PTSD” in the search box of this blog and you’ll find a myriad of things people do to alleviate their symptoms. Of course, many people require treatment from a professional. If you are wondering if your symptoms need medical attention, click on the screening link to the right of this post.

Samantha Rogers is the communications and administrative intern at Screening for Mental Health.