Stress Disorder More Common in Women

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is defined as "an anxiety disorder precipitated by a traumatic event and characterized by symptoms of re-experiencing the trauma, avoidance and numbing and hyperarousal."

Researchers David F. Tolin, PhD of the Institute of Living and Edna B. Foa, PhD, of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine recently did a meta-analysis of 290 90 studies conducted between 1980 and 2005 to find out who is more inclined to develop Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), men or women? Their report is published in the November issue of Psychological Bulletin, published by the American Psychological Association (APA).

Women are more at risk for PTSD

In the review, the authors found that:

Though men are more likely to experience more traumatic events, women are more inclined to meet diagnostic criteria for PTSD, and that they suffer from higher PTSD rates.

The review also revealed that female participants were more likely to have experienced sexual assault and child sexual abuse, but men tend to have experience more accidents, nonsexual assaults, witness death or injury, disaster or fire and combat or war. Thus, Tolin and Foa conclude that sexual traumas are more likely to cause emotional suffering and contribute to a PSTD diagnosis than other forms of trauma.

Women’s higher risk for sexual assault and child sexual abuse are not the only reason for their higher PSTD rates. The researchers found that women still have higher rates even when both genders compared on the same type of trauma.

The meta-analysis also revealed that the participants who experienced multiple traumas may be more inclined to "re-experience" old PSTD symptoms when faced with a new trauma. Female vehicular accidents were more likely to report more PTSD symptoms than male accident victims.

Tolin said that "However, the data suggest that the female victims will have brought to the table a much greater risk of abuse and sexual assault prior to the accident; this could place them at higher risk of developing PTSD after the accident even though the current accident may not have caused all the symptoms."

The authors’ findings were consistent across population and age examined and the type of study and assessment tool used.

Why males are less inclined to develop PSTD symptoms

Tolin and Foa explain that the reason why men are less likely to develop PSTD symptoms is because "PTSD may be diagnosed more in women in part because of the criteria used to define it.  

Cognitive and emotional responses to traumatic events make a diagnosis of PTSD more likely. So even though men may experience more traumas, they don’t seem to have the same emotional responses to traumatic events."

Another reason could be that men’s symptoms manifest in different ways. In the meta-analysis, though male participants were less inclined to report anxiety or depression, they were more likely to behavior and drug problems. They were also more predisposed to become irritable, angry or violent after traumas.

Source: APA