PTSD: More women sufferers than men

As we close out our celebration and support of National PTSD Awareness Month we wish to share about ‘Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or, C-PTSD.

Research indicates that more than twice the number of women, over men, suffer from PTSD but the majority of these women have never been on a battlefield or served in the military. It turns out that ‘prolonged exposure’ to trauma can be just as harmful, if not more so, than brief instances of intense trauma as experienced in battle. So, why is this and what is Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?

The website, ‘Out Of The Storm‘ provides an excellent lay-person definition of C-PTSD:

Complex PTSD is a psychological stress injury which may develop in childhood or adulthood. It results from ongoing or repeated interpersonal trauma (e.g., emotional/sexual/physical abuse; neglect/abandonment; domestic violence), over which the child or adult has little or no control, and from which there is no real or perceived hope of escape.

This accumulation of trauma distinguishes Complex PTSD from the better known Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in which trauma typically involves a single, impersonal event or a group of events of limited duration (e.g., witnessing a tragedy, being the victim of a car accident, short term military combat exposure)‘.

Symptoms of C-PTSD:

C-PTSD shares many of the same symptoms as ‘standard’ PTSD, experiencing flashbacks, a sense of threat or a need to be hypervigilant leading to avoidance and isolation in order to avoid the perceived ‘threat’. But, there are other behaviors or symptoms sufferers of C-PTSD exhibit that are more pronounced or exclusive of Complex PTSD. Some of these may include:

Emotional Dysregulation: or being ’emotionally over sensitive’ and then being unable to respond to any given situation in an emotionally appropriate or flexible manner.

Negative Self-Concept: having a sense of being ‘worthless’ or ‘defective’ or ‘useless’.

Interpersonal Problems: An inability to feel or express emotions to, or with, another person and rooted in a sense of feeling disconnected or cut off due to overwhelming social anxiety.

The things to remember when looking for signs of C-PTSD are those areas and times in a person’s life when instances of prolonged trauma may have occurred. Usually at times in the victim’s life when they were developmentally vulnerable. These can be during childhood or adolescence but may occur in adulthood and especially around times of vulnerability such as disability, dependency, age, infirmity, etc,. Therefore, it is wholly possible for a senior citizen or an otherwise high functioning adult to be the victim of C-PTSD.

As a result, many ongoing traumatic events that affect women; childhood or teen sexual abuse, physical abuse or domestic violence, has caused this large disparity in PTSD diagnoses over men. In other words,  PTSD isn’t just from war anymore!

What can be done?

It is suggested that PTSD is a set of learned, or conditioned, responses to stress and/or trauma and can be abated, or ‘cured’, with treatment.

While there are many effective treatments for C-PTSD, psychotherapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Prolonged Exposure Therapy, Hypnosis, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), etc., the most important thing the sufferer should keep in mind is to find a therapist with experience in the treatment of trauma disorders.

Barrington Behavioral Health and Wellness has many therapists on staff that specialize in the treatment of trauma disorders. If you would like to know more about Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD) and how it relates or affects you or others in your life, contact us at 888-261-2178 or email us at

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