Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a serious psychological disease that is caused by exposure to emotionally intense and traumatic events. Most people are aware of the effects of this disorder on soldiers experiencing battlefield violence – which is pronounced and problematic on many levels. However, a woman need not be in uniform to experience the repercussions of PTSD. Millions of civilian women suffer from this debilitating illness as well.
What Causes PTSD in Civilian Women?
The following types of experiences can create an emotional overload in a woman’s brain:
- Rape or other sexual assault
- Long-term bullying or verbal abuse
- Spousal abuse or neglect
- The sudden loss of a child or other loved one
- A natural disaster, such as a tornado, flood, hurricane, or tsunami
- Sudden financial devastation and loss of security
These experiences can lead to PTSD.
Symptoms of PTSD
When a woman experiences emotional trauma like this, her brain may partially shut down as a sort of coping mechanism. While this shutdown may help her survive the situation, the result is that the painful emotions remain pent up, waiting to be processed. If the emotions are not properly processed, the woman is likely to experience the following symptoms:
- Panic attacks
- Nightmares and insomnia
- Anxiety disorders
- Eating disorders
- Sexual dysfunction
- Anger management problems
It is unfortunately very common for women in this situation to turn to alcohol or drug abuse as a coping mechanism to medicate their trauma. This only makes things much worse.
Can PTSD Be Treated?
Great strides have been made in recent years in the treatment of PTSD. It is a complicated process that involves a combination of counseling styles alongside medical treatment and coping skill development. Disciplines such as cognitive behavior treatment (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) are helping women with PTSD learn to control their emotional responses to various triggers. These programs are often available in either inpatient or outpatient formats and can take anywhere from a couple of months to many years to complete. With the right help, however, women with PTSD should be able to overcome their pain and learn a new way to manage their emotions.