Why might women be somewhat more likely to have posttraumatic stress disorder than men?

Essay by RexKentUniversity, Bachelor'sA+, April 2006

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Traumatic stress disorders result from one's inability to cope with psychologically tragic events and their repercussions. These life-threatening events would be traumatic for anyone, but those with PTSD experience prolonged symptoms well after the conclusion of the initial traumatic event. They relive the event in their minds, avoid situations that they associate with the trauma, become emotionally detached ("psychic numbness" or dissociation) and experience hyper-arousal, including an exaggerated startle response and difficulty sleeping.

Women suffer from PTSD at a higher rate than men, even combat veterans, with approximately two women meeting the diagnostic criteria for every one man. Because the threat of death or disabling injury creates the trigger for PTSD, it must be that women have a greater likelihood for exposure to these dangers. The high incidence of child molestation, rape, and spousal abuse perpetrated upon women leads to this strongly positive correlation between sex and PTSD.

Studies show that one in eight women is the victim of a sexual assault at some time in her life. Only fairly recently have courts and legislators begun to criminalize, prosecute and punish marital rapists. Men are most likely to be the attackers and rape is a crime of power assertion. By definition, then, the victims are unable either physically or psychologically to resist. Rapists are predators who seek out the powerless. The prosecution of rape cases often calls into question every facet of the victim's private life, with the defense counter-accusing her of promiscuity. Because this process necessitates reliving the experience, it also contributes to PTSD.

The world's many armed conflicts over the years have further exacerbated the situation by creating an additional pool of potential victims abroad. Women are generally noncombatants, thus unarmed and often defenseless, depending on their countrymen and the rules of war to...