PTSD in women requires complex, compassionate care

PTSD in women requires complex, compassionate care

Veterans, police officers and family violence survivors

When people think of PTSD, we often think of soldiers returning from war zones or police officers who have seen the darker side of humanity for too many years.

But, while these often masculine archetypes might be what we associate with PTSD, trauma that happens at home, at work or between friends can also cause significant psychological suffering.

PTSD in women often stems from abuse

The most common causes of PTSD in women are family violence and sexual violence, but abuse can occur on the job as well – particularly in caring professions such as nursing, disability support and paramedical work. 

If you have lived through physical, sexual, psychological or other forms of abuse, your risk of PTSD significantly increases, along with the risk of other diagnoses such as depression, anxiety and borderline personality disorder.

In terms of statistics, the numbers tell a clear story: around 50% of abuse survivors will end up being diagnosed with a mental health condition – but many more will go undiagnosed.

From childhood trauma to post-traumatic stress

Like PTSD, many people have preconceived ideas of what childhood trauma might involve: things like physical, sexual or verbal abuse. While these traumas are serious and significant, many other things in childhood can negatively affect the way we feel, think and act well into adulthood.

These can include:

  • Being neglected or ignored
  • Feeling invisible or unwanted
  • Not being shown love or care
  • Not being listened to or believed
  • Living in extreme poverty

Children can also experience trauma through witnessing abuse of others in the home, or from losing a parent or parental figure to addiction or illness.

Bullying outside the home is also a significant risk factor for PTSD in later life and should be taken very seriously.

Trauma response and PTSD don’t look a certain way

Misconceptions and misunderstandings about how a person who has experienced trauma might act can cause serious complications in diagnosis and treatment.

Many trauma survivors may appear outgoing or successful on the outside, striving for a perfect-looking life to hide the pain they are feeling under the surface. On the other hand, a traumatised person may act as if they are not interested in engaging with social activities or prefer to spend time alone when in reality they crave connection.

PTSD can look like a set of unusual habits: checking things over and over or having to have things just ‘so’ to feel calm and at ease; or it can look like being distracted, unable to concentrate or complete tasks to fruition.

Traumatised people might also appear to be hopeless or depressed, feeling they are cursed or that they are not destined for a long or happy life. They might be ‘waiting for something bad to happen’ or trying to disassociate from reality.

Because trauma can take so many different forms and come from so many different causes, it’s critical to work out how and why symptoms and patterns of behaviour came to be so the right tools and treatment options can be offered.

Reach out for support

Just like physical illnesses, the treatment and specialist care a person might need for one mental illness may not be suited to the next person.

As the largest private provider of mental health care in Australia, we are dedicated to making a real difference in the lives of those we treat, with whatever pathway they need.

At our specialist women’s only clinic in Thirroul, our expert team offers support for a range of trauma-related conditions in a supportive, safe environment.

We encourage you to reach out to our expert team who can assist you in finding the right avenue for your mental health care journey.