According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, up to half of women can experience a traumatic event in their lifetimes, and many of them will go on to develop post-traumatic stress disorder. This condition can be extremely disruptive, and can also lead to other problems such as substance abuse and eating disorders.
Since PTSD is so prevalent among women, you may benefit from educating yourself about what it entails and its characteristic symptoms so you can spot the warning signs in yourself or others.
What Is PTSD?
The stigma surrounding trauma has given rise to the misconception that women with PTSD are unstable or lack mental resilience, which makes them somehow to blame for their illness.
On the contrary, women who develop PTSD after a frightening or life-threatening event are processing their emotions differently than those who don’t. Factors that might make you more susceptible to having PTSD include:
- A family history of mental illnesses such as depression
- Inadequate coping skills
- Cumulative stress from previous traumatic experiences
- A lack of social support
- Substance abuse
- Existing psychological problems, perhaps resulting from chronic stress
Do I Have PTSD?
PTSD symptoms usually emerge within a month after you experience a traumatic event. However, many people do not begin noticing symptoms until months or years later, as is often the case with prolonged, ongoing exposure to trauma. Here are some warning signs you might have PTSD.
- Intrusive memories: One hallmark of PTSD most people are familiar with is recurring memories that force you to relive the event over and over. These may come in the form of flashbacks or vivid nightmares, and can result from situational or sensory triggers. Your emotional distress might manifest in physical symptoms such as shaking, insomnia or heart palpitations.
- Avoidance: Those living with PTSD tend to instinctively avoid people, events or circumstances that remind them of the traumatic experience. If you allow your symptoms to worsen, interactions with others may feel so stressful that you eventually become socially withdrawn and isolated.
- Erratic mood: PTSD might cause you to feel worthless, numb, guilty or suicidal. If you find yourself reacting angrily to circumstances in which you would usually be patient, experts call it emotional dysregulation.
Unique Risk Factors for Women With PTSD
Despite the fact that women are more likely than men to develop PTSD and can also experience more severe symptoms with this disorder, you may struggle to find help due to persistent societal stigmas surrounding women and mental health. Survivors of traumatic events such as rape or sexual abuse often feel so much pain and shame that they wait years to come forward and seek help, while others never receive treatment at all.
Women with untreated PTSD may also foster a dual diagnosis when they turn to self-harm or substance abuse as outlets for the stress and unhappiness they feel. Or, you might dramatically change your eating habits to provide a sense of control in an environment that otherwise feels unsafe or unpredictable, leading to an eating disorder.
Where to Get Treatment for a Dual Diagnosis
Learning to manage your PTSD symptoms is possible with professional help. At Rising Roads Recovery, our holistic treatment team includes licensed therapists, a board-certified psychiatrist, a nutritionist and family therapists. In our women’s-only recovery program, you will learn healthy life skills surrounded by a supportive community that understands your goals. When you are ready to take back your life, contact us today.