The brain responds differently for every person after being exposed to trauma. After a traumatic event, it is normal to feel anxious, afraid or upset. These events include, but are not limited to: violent crimes, car accidents, loved ones in danger, war, and natural disasters. For some people, these feelings fade within a few weeks. Others continue to have these feelings for months or years afterwards. They might experience reliving the event, flashbacks, negative thoughts, and a sense of nervousness. This is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
How do the symptoms differ?
Females may have PTSD symptoms longer than males. Before diagnosis and treatment, females have symptoms for 4 years, and males for 1 year. Females are more likely to:
- Feel depressed and anxious
- Be easily startled
- Have more trouble feeling emotions
- Avoid any triggers of the trauma
Males are more likely to have problems with alcohol and drugs after the traumatic event.
“It’s very common that people will try to self-medicate. They’ll try to use alcohol and drug substances to change that experience that they are having” says Dr. Horacio A. Capote, Medical Director of the Division of Neuropsychiatry at DENT.
Males and females both develop physical health problems in tandem with their PTSD symptoms.
Different brain responses
In experimental studies, the right amygdala, right rostral anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) and dorsal ACC showed more activation in females than males, when exposed to fearful stimuli. This side of the brain is particularly associated with negative emotions. These same brain areas are involved in stress response, mind-body awareness and emotional reactivity. A different study used physiological measures to show that females experience fear more easily than males when exposed to fearful stimuli.
In terms of stress, females show more of an emotional and ruminative response. Ruminating about your triggers can make impact worse if it stops you from taking action. Males are more likely to engage in problem-solving.
Who is at risk?
An intensely scary or dangerous event can cause anyone to have PTSD. At least 4 out of 5 people experience a traumatic event in their lifetime. The more serious the trauma is the higher PTSD risk.
Females are twice as more likely to develop PTSD than males. About 1 in 10 females will develop PTSD in their lifetime. However, medical data from several VA centers have noted that male veterans were more likely to have healthcare visits or diagnosis of PTSD than females (22% vs 17%).
How is PTSD diagnosed?
PTSD is diagnosed by a medical professional. Our goal at the DENT Neurologic Institute is to expand psychiatric services and to improve psychiatric care in Western New York. “Many of these problems are brain diseases, and we are very well situated to understand the brain. We work with it in an appropriate and helpful way, without being confrontational and stigmatizing” adds Dr. Capote.
We treat adult patients for a wide range of mental illnesses and addiction disorders including PTSD, depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and more. Over the years, our psychiatric team has continued to grow which has allowed for increased access to care as well as expansion treatment modalities such as ECT, TMS, and psychotherapy. If you or someone you know is looking to see one of our medical professionals, call 716-250-2000 or learn more by clicking here.