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Why Do Women Report Higher Rates of PTSD Than Men?


Men and women are equally vulnerable to factors that can lead to posttraumatic stress (PTSD), such as child abuse, sexual abuse, maltreatment, violence, and natural disasters. However, women report far more cases of PTSD than men and tend to have longer symptom duration. Some speculation regarding this unique dynamic has hinted toward a higher vulnerability to symptoms of PTSD in women. Other factors that could influence the discrepancy in PTSD rates between sexes include type of trauma and the role of the perpetrator. For instance, people who are abused by a caregiver may experience a unique type of trauma known as betrayal trauma. This form of abuse can challenge attachment relationships and cause significant psychological damage unlike that caused by trauma at the hands of strangers or noncaregivers.

In an attempt to better understand why PTSD rates are higher among women than men, Sharon Shin Shin Tang of the Department of Psychology at the University of Oregon recently led a study that evaluated survey responses of more than 1,200 participants gathered from a local college and the surrounding community. She found that betrayal traumas posed the highest risk of PTSD in both men and women, but women exhibited more reexperiencing, anxiety, and depression than men. Overall, the men reported nearly equal amounts of PTSD as the women, which was an unexpected finding.

Upon further examination, Tang found that the women had rates of childhood sexual abuse by someone close that were 45% higher than those of the men, but men had higher rates of physical abuse and witnessed more violence than women. Also of interest were the coping strategies used to deal with the symptoms of PTSD. In particular, this study did not show that women used more avoidance coping than men, as has been demonstrated in previous research. “Additional research is needed in order to understand the potential roles of types of trauma and relationship to the perpetrator may influence PTSD symptom presentation,” Tang said. In sum, these findings suggest that although reported rates of PTSD are higher among women, the effects of trauma may be negatively affecting just as many men as women.

Tang, Sharon Shin Shin, and Jennifer J. Freyd. Betrayal trauma and gender differences in posttraumatic stress. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice & Policy 4.5 (2012): 469-78. Print.

© Copyright 2012 by www.GoodTherapy.org - All Rights Reserved.

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  • Kennedy November 1st, 2012 at 12:32 AM #1

    Well there are differences in how the two sexes process a traumatic episode.And also in coping strategies.Im not surprised that women would be more affected by it all.Not to say that men are invulnerable but trauma can be a little different for the two sexes.

  • Emma November 1st, 2012 at 3:57 AM #2

    Easy answer:

    it isn’t that women have higher rates of PTSD it’s that they are more willing to report it

  • andre November 1st, 2012 at 2:38 PM #3

    the major difference has to be the way in which someone processes the information.you could sit back and wallow or get on your feet against it.when it comes to gender differences women tend to think hey are responsible for what happened more than men do and I can say this from my own experiences.women tend to beat themselves up even if they are only victims.This is a destructive thinking method and women should keep a check on it!

  • Jont November 2nd, 2012 at 2:09 AM #4

    I agree with Emma in #2 – women are socialized into seeking and accepting help, whereas men are socialized into toughing it out, which means minimizing and downplaying the trauma and its effects.

    Afaik the mechanics of trauma are similar in either sex – a disconnect between emotional and narrative memory in response to the futility of a normal fight or flight response.

  • Kyle francis November 2nd, 2012 at 4:16 AM #5

    I hope that people don’t start thinking that oh women have this more because they are more prone to thinking that they have something wrong with them. I actually think that it’s because like others have implied they are just more open to realizing that there is something wrong with them and becoming more willing to talk about it and seek help for. I think that too many times men try to retreat within and try to reason things out alone becaus ehtye think that asking for help is weak. To me what is weak is to allow something to fester all because you are afraid of asking someone else to help you out.

  • Say November 3rd, 2012 at 7:04 AM #6

    How can the role of living in a patriarchal society not play into this analysis? I mean, is it any surprise that women have more ptsd symptoms given that trauma often results in feelings of powerlessness, which is then often reiterated by society every single day? All anyone has to do is turn on the news to hear some of the ignorant things being said about rape (only in reference to women) to know why women might have may have more severe ptsd symptoms or more symptoms of re-experiencing.

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