There are several common signs of PTSD in women. However, trauma impacts each woman differently and requires a personalized approach to trauma therapy.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, is a mental health disorder that develops after someone experiences a traumatic, albeit terrifying, event either directly or indirectly. For example, a few of the events that can have a long-lasting impact on mental health include the following:
- Sexual or physical assault
- Child sexual or physical abuse
- Observing violence or death
- Combat or military experiences
In this article, you will discover several of the most common signs of PTSD in women.
Signs of PTSD in Women
How someone experiences, reacts and handles the entire traumatic event will be different for each person. Two people may undergo similar experiences, and yet only one of them shows signs of PTSD. But, while the experience itself can vary from woman to woman, the resulting signs and symptoms of PTSD can be very similar.
Here are several of the most common signs of PTSD in women.
1. Intrusive and Distressing Thoughts
Having thoughts about the traumatic event can pop up seemingly out of nowhere. This is one of the most frequently reported signs of PTSD. A woman may be moving freely through her day when all of a sudden memories about the event appear. This can lead to feelings of panic, unease, anxiety, discomfort, etc. They could come when in a similar situation – such as being at the same party with someone who caused your pain – or they may just appear out of nowhere.
Getting a good night’s sleep is essential for overall health and wellbeing. But this can be hard for those who suffer from nightmares thanks to PTSD. These awful dreams can be very real and lead to physical pain and feelings that can disrupt sleep – and even impact daily life.
Avoidance of particular places, events, people, situations can be a huge sign of PTSD. Those who are traumatized by a car accident, for example, may find it hard to get back in a car. Or, they may avoid a specific part of driving, such as certain roads or making left turns. Those who were sexually abused as a child or assaulted as an adult may find it hard to be intimate with a partner. This avoidance behavior can be debilitating.
4. Negative Thoughts
Whether it is about oneself or the world around them, women who have PTSD will often possess a negative, pessimistic view of life. This leads to feelings of hopelessness and doom. They may have an ailing self-image and confidence, requiring therapy and tools to overcome it. Leaving these negative thoughts alone may fester and grow into potentially dangerous thoughts.
5. Inability to Focus
When your mind just went through something that it perceives as horrific, returning to normal, everyday life seems impossible. It is not uncommon for there to be difficulty focusing on mundane tasks when the mind is elsewhere. As a result, those with untreated PTSD may struggle to achieve success in school or in the workplace.
6. Missing Memories
Certain bits of memory loss are expected when traumatic events happen. This is because the brain’s ability to function properly is impacted by its desire to protect itself from what just happened. It is our own natural defense mechanism. Without any recollection of what happened, there are no unpleasant or distressing reactions – or intrusive thoughts.
7. Always on High-Alert
Hypervigilance is another prevalent sign or symptom of PTSD. Someone who has been through a harrowing experience always wants to be prepared for the next thing. They never want to leave themselves vulnerable to acts of violence, terror, abuse, etc. Therefore they stay active and maintain extreme vigilance – perhaps even overreacting – in an attempt to keep the trauma from happening again.
8. Intense Flashbacks
Intrusive thoughts can be bad enough, but flashbacks can take things to a whole new level. These flashbacks can happen out of nowhere or can be triggered due to encountering certain things/people/smells/sounds. These sensations are vivid and feel very real, and the response they elicit is very visceral, too. Flashbacks lead to panic and may even warrant an aggressive, physical response.
9. Easily Startled
Many people living with PTSD are easily started, whether by movements or by sounds. And their response is usually wildly exaggerated. Think of the combat vets who hear fireworks. PTSD often triggers a very real flashback, or it can cause an exaggerated startle.
After trauma, victims dealing with PTSD often find it hard to relate to others. They may change their personalities and behaviors, and they may even begin to feel like an outsider. Isolating themselves during this time is not a healthy way to process the trauma. Speaking with a therapist is highly recommended.
11. Acting Carelessly
After going through something that has caused PTSD, some women find that they care less. They may have thought they did everything right and still ended up hurt, so why bother? Some engage in compulsive behaviors for the adrenaline or thrill — it allows them to feel. Or, what happens quite often, is women will turn to substance abuse to reduce the pain and suffering caused by the trauma.
12. Assigning Blame
It often goes back to those negative thoughts, but blaming oneself is a common – and dangerous – sign or symptom of PTSD. It is not uncommon for the victim of a traumatic situation to blame themselves for it happening in the first place. This is especially the case when it involves losing a loved one. Or, less commonly, blaming others may occur. Assigning blame is something to look out for.
If you or someone you love is exhibiting signs of PTSD, whether you recognize the trauma or not, it is important to seek professional guidance and treatment. When trauma leads to addiction, it requires the help of both a mental health therapist and an addiction specialist. Finding a way to do this in a whole-body, holistic healing method can prove lifelong success.