The specific risk factors that were most influential included feelings of fear, horror and helplessness during the traumatic incident, and negative thoughts about oneself and the world following the incident. It was mainly a combination of risk factors, however, that accounted for the steep increase in PTSD symptoms in women as compared to men.

Christiansen believes variables “interact to produce sex differences in the psychological risk and protective factors associated with PTSD.” In addition to physiological factors, she emphasizes cultural differences in gender role identification and socialization, and “sex differences in daily and lifetime stressors, such as socioeconomic status, interpersonal conflicts, and sexual trauma and harassment” as contributors to sex differences in PTSD presentation. Future studies should explore specific treatment implications of such differences.

“For example, a few studies have found that social support may be more protective of PTSD in women compared to men, and thus, treatment that focuses on strengthening the availability of social support may be found to be more effective for women than for men,” Christiansen said.

Tori Rodriguez, MA, LPC, is a psychotherapist and freelancer writer based in Atlanta.

References

  1. Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Retrieved on June 11, 2015 from http://www.adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/posttraumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd.
  2. Kobayash I, et al. One’s sex, sleep, and posttraumatic stress disorder. Biol Sex Differ. 2012; 3(1):29.
  3. Inslicht SS, et al. Sex differences in neurosteroid and hormonal responses to metyrapone in posttraumatic stress disorder. Psychopharmacology. 2014; 231(17):3581-95.
  4. Christiansen DM and Hansen M. Accounting for sex differences in PTSD: A multi-variable mediation model. Eur J Psychotraumatol. 2015; 6:26068.