Trauma is a common thing among many individuals across the world. At some point in life, an experience that induces pain will happen to everyone. However, when one of these moments of pain goes beyond a normal reaction, it turns into a traumatic event or traumatic experience that is difficult to cope with. Trauma affects everybody differently and can even evolve into post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or other health-related concerns. But how does trauma affect men and women differently?
Trauma and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychiatric disorder that occurs in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event such as a natural disaster, accident, terrorist act, war or combat, or sexual violence. Trauma can also occur with those threatened with death, sexual violence, or severe injury. PTSD affects approximately 3.5% of U.S. adults every year, and an estimated one in 11 people will be diagnosed with PTSD in their lifetime.
Symptoms of PTSD may include:
- Repeated, involuntary memories
- Distressing dreams
- Flashbacks of the event
- Avoiding people, places, and things that are a reminder of the event
- Inability to remember aspects of the event
- Negative thoughts and distorted beliefs about self
- Inability to experience positive emotions
- Irritability and anger outbursts
Gender Differences in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
While PTSD can happen to anyone, statistics show a significant gender difference in the prevalence of the disorder. Around 10% of women are diagnosed with PTSD at some point in their lives compared to four percent of men. Numerous research studies have shown that women are twice as likely to experience PTSD than men.
Types of Trauma
Evidence shows that the lifetime prevalence of exposure to trauma is much lower in women among men. However, women are more vulnerable to developing PTSD because women are more at risk of experiencing specific types of trauma associated with PTSD. Women are more likely to experience rape, sexual assault, and sexual abuse as a child, contributing to their higher likelihood of developing PTSD. On the other hand, men are more likely to experience physical assault, accidents, disaster, combat, or seeing death or injury.
Culture and Gender Roles
Culture and gender roles play a significant role in the prevalence of PTSD among women. PTSD is more common in communities that employ traditional gender roles. Women in this space are more likely to feel emotionally vulnerable, contributing to their high rates of PTSD.
However, men are more likely to have trouble disclosing their trauma due to gender role expectations. Simply put, being a “victim” does not fit into the male gender role schemas (i.e., strong, in control, can protect themselves and others). Due to this conflict, they might experience more shame in sharing their trauma with others and seeking the help they need.
How Men and Women Cope With Trauma
Men and women cope with trauma differently, and the way women cope with trauma may be a factor that increases their susceptibility to developing PTSD. Instead of the usual “fight or flight” response, women are more likely to “tend and befriend” while facing traumatic experiences.
Tending involves taking care of the people around them, while befriending is the process of reaching out to people to find relief from distress. Considering women’s reliance on the support of others during traumatic events, they become more vulnerable to experiencing PTSD symptoms if their social network does not give the support they need or feel rejected and abandoned.
On the other hand, men are more likely to cope with trauma through anger. Anger is often the easiest way for men to react due to societal gender norms. For example, many men are taught that anger equates to strength and power. Anger is often a mask for other emotions that men have difficulty expressing, like sadness, frustration, fear, and anxiety. Men healing from a traumatic event often need help identifying the feelings behind their anger and how to express their anger healthily.
How West Coast Recovery Centers Approaches Trauma
The professionals at West Coast Recovery Centers understand how trauma affects both men and women differently. We use various trauma release exercises and personalized approach treatment plans to meet the needs of each client individually. We care about each person who comes into our care and believe the best way to help them achieve a successful recovery outcome is with industry-leading experience and careful deliberation on their treatment plan.
Our professionals understand how to practice self-compassion and gender responsiveness with a professional communication style to help each individual who suffers from trauma and substance abuse. We care about taking a personalized approach to meet your current needs. West Coast Recovery Centers takes trauma seriously and provides and inspires change through traditional and nontraditional treatment methods.
Any man or woman can have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Luckily, there are effective treatments for PTSD with West Coast Recovery Centers. If you or someone you love shows signs of PTSD, it is essential to avoid making assumptions about their specific gender or background experiences. The best way to handle PTSD or those that suffer from substance use and PTSD is to encourage them to get treatments and support from a professional. At West Coast Recovery Centers, our staff handles trauma professionally. We will address your concerns and facilitate the most suitable treatment plan. Our facility will create an individualized treatment plan to help you achieve long-term recovery. Our team values a deep connection with you, and we are honored to walk alongside you as you step towards sustainable recovery. If you or a loved one suffer from substance use and trauma, contact West Coast Recovery Centers today at (760) 492-6509.