Understanding PTSD by Gender: Guest blog by Dale Vernor

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(image: Kennington Osteopaths)

Post traumatic Stress Disorder, better known as PTSD can occur in a person who has experienced or been a witness to an event that is traumatic enough to affect their lives in a negative way. Witnessing a death, a serious accident, war, abuse, being a victim of a crime, natural disasters and childhood trauma can all be causes of PTSD. Many people only associate PTSD with war and veterans, but the truth is an estimated 3.5 percent of the US population suffers from PTSD.

Research has shown that there are differences in the brain when it comes to how men and women process and deal with PTSD. Science is admittedly behind on truly understanding the gender differences when it comes to PTSD and how it is expressed, but there have been some findings.

Men and women respond to stress differently. Men are more likely to respond with a fight-or-flight response in a stressful situation and women are more likely to use a more calming response known as tend-and-befriend.

This is an emotion-focused coping mechanism. It should be noted that there is so little data that stereotypes should not be formed, however, there is enough data to support differences in the genders.

PTSD in Men

Men are more likely to have PTSD due to combat trauma, trauma from natural disasters and disasters caused by human force, some sort of violence and accidents. Based on studies and research men actually suffer more traumatic life events than women on average, however, only 5-6% of men will experience lifetime PTSD. Lifetime PTSD is less prevalent in men than in women. Double the rate of women will experience lifetime PTSD at 10-12%.

PTSD in Women

Women are at a substantially higher risk for PTSD than men. Biology and psychology play a part in why those differences exist. Women are more likely to experience what is considered “high-impact trauma” at a younger age than men.

Women are more likely to experience sexual abuse, domestic violence and sexual assault that leads to their PTSD. It is sexual trauma that puts women at a higher risk for PTSD than men.

Women who suffer from PTSD will also tend to do so longer in comparison to men; on average 4 years to 1. When it comes to seeking help for PTSD women are more likely to seek support for their illness amongst a group. They tend to look for social support.

Symptoms of PTSD Same in Men and Women

The women and men who have this condition often express similar symptoms. Men may display their symptoms in a more aggressive expression where women have shown to retreat internally and avoid the outside world.

Some of the symptoms of someone suffering from PTSD are:

Re-experiencing nightmares, having flashbacks and frightening thoughts that appear real, avoiding people, places and things that may remind a person of the trauma and avoiding feelings and thoughts to cope with the trauma, signs of heighten anger and anxiety expressed physiologically, being hyper-vigilant against threats, difficulty sleeping, experiencing an onslaught of negative feelings, thoughts and judgments, unreasonable blaming of yourself, excessive guilt and a negative perception of yourself in the world, and disinterest in regular every-day activities.

PTSD and Substance Abuse

According to the U.S. National Library of medicine 50-66 % of people who have PTSD simultaneously suffer from addiction. What begins as a means to cope with the symptoms of PTSD, which are distressing, usually turns into a full-blown addiction.

Substances like drugs and alcohol can decrease anxiety in the moment, escape the pain , distract from negative emotions and increase pleasure in the short term. The coping mechanism of substance abuse affects both women and men. There are dual diagnosis treatment centers for people who are suffering from PTSD and substance abuse.

Post traumatic stress disorder, wherever you live in the world and whatever gender you are, can be hard to cope with. Please seek support if you need it and know you are not alone.

This post was written by Dale, a freelance writer specialising in mental health, based in the USA.  He can be found on Twitter https://twitter.com/DaleVernor

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Guest Post: On Sexual Abuse by Anonymous Woman

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(image: JPMS Medical blogs)


The writer of this article is an anonymous woman who wanted to speak out to share her story of being sexually abused as a child and teen. She also has mental health issues as a result.

Trigger warning: please read with care 

 

I have been abused twice, both times were at the hands of people I knew and respected, once when I was 8 and once at around age 17/18.

A lot of the memories were lost due to the extent of the trauma, but having EMDR has opened up the box, broken the chain that was firmly fixed around it and let all the memories out.

It has been horrendous, reliving the abuse, the detail of my memory, almost physically feeling I am back, as a child in that bed, remembering the details .  The family friend was a women, who was so trusted by all of us, growing up I adored her, admired her, almost wanted to be her, and now, all of those feelings have vanished replaced by to many emotions to specify one.

When I was a teenager I was abused by a well known Rabbi, thankfully the abuse this man carried out has come out in to the community.

I have written this letter in the hope that more people in the community may feel more able to step forward to talk about this.

If someone would like my e mail address please ask the blog owner for it.  

Dear my abuser (s) 

This letter will never get sent , but I want you to know what impact you had on my life, how those actions which may have only lasted 15 -30 minutes , actions which you probably have forgotten about, shaped the person I have become. 

In a strange way I am grateful for the memories of what you did, as not having the memory, yet knowing that something happened was worse. When the memories savaged my brain, invading my mind with your face, your hands and your body I believed that the shock and horror would never pass, everything I had ever thought of you, all my memories of you changed from seeing you as a positive, supportive influence to a monster who had harmed me in the worst way possible.

Your actions, made me aware from such a young age of my body .For years I knew, that from the age of around 9 my body was an immensely complicated thing in my mind, at such a young age being so aware of my body affected my confidence, self esteem and self love . 

At age 8 you took away the most precious thing, you helped yourself to my innocence, you took away from the person I could have become and began my journey to becoming the person I have been.

That knowledge made me in to a pretty messed up person.

My child is around that age . I look at my child  and see a happy future, a future filled with love and self confidence. The thought of something similar happening to my child  is to painful to contemplate.

By the time I was in my teens, my journey of self destruction was well on its way. I had learned by that time how to hide things, how to keep secrets, how to come across as confident and well adjusted and to this day my public persona and the person I am inside are two very different people. My life, for so many years was about seeking physical pleasure in order to reassure myself that I was a loveable, attractive person, that having sex was the self affirmation I needed to survive, lowering myself, giving my body freely, whilst hating myself for doing it, gave me the tools to breath, to live. Even today, if I do not feel my husband desires me it destroys me for days.

There were so many questions, mostly WHY, and HOW, how could I have let this happen to me twice, and why did it happen twice ( I know now that is was BECAUSE it happened once it happened again ) , how could I have stood as an older teen -when I let the pictures overtake my mind I am screaming silently why, why, why.

It is like being at a movie, a never ending movie, you can not leave the screening, you are on the screen, you try to yell, you try to reach out to the girl in the movie, but she can not hear you, you see her at 8, you see her at 17 you see her life unravelling, and you can not do anything to stop it, you want to beg her to tell, you want to beg her to be strong.

You see the girl grow, you see the way she lived her life, and you understand how the girls journey began, it makes sense to you that the girl ends up with severe mental health issues , you see how mental health issues are worsened by no self esteem, how other tragic events  could tip her over the edge and compel her to seek comfort in the arms of any man who would take her, and you understand her.  

 I understand now that cause and effect would dictate that the reason I ended up in your office, was a direct result of what she did to me at age 8, that she was the one who started the chain of events.

You taught me, you guided me to the mind-set that “the way to get love and care is to do what a man wants”.

My whole self worth was wrapped up in a package labelled, please sleep with me.

I feel so much sadness, sadness for the girl you both violated, sadness that the girl whose body you choose to fulfil your sick desires was mine, sadness that I am constantly questioning everything, why was I there, how could I have let you, why didn’t I tell anyone, when will I be able to go a day, an hour, 10 minutes without one of you pushing your way in to my thoughts.

There is nothing I can do to turn back time, there is no way I can ask you why, or sit with you and show you the movie of my life, the one which you started, I pray that there will come a time I can accept what you both did, I hope with all my heart a day will come when you will not mean anything to me.

All I can do is wait, sit with these constant overwhelming thoughts, trying to untangle them like a necklace with those annoying knots in the chain that are impossible to open, yet I will persevere.

I will continue to pick at the chain until all those knots have gone and you both become dust that is blown away from my mind


If you need support with sexual abuse and you live in the UK please contact:

The Survivors Trust

https://migdalemunah.org.uk/

Safe Line