Studies show that about 60 percent of men experience traumatic events in their lifetime. Approximately 50 percent of women are exposed to traumatic situations over the course of their life. Though the rate of trauma is higher among men, women often seem to react to more strongly those events.
Reports show that women tend to suffer more profound consequences of those experiences as well. Women are diagnosed with trauma-related conditions more often than men, and they show more pronounced symptoms of ptsd. Why do female victims experience trauma differently than males? Several factors enter the equation here.
Typical Social Standards
On the most basic level, trauma appears to have a more profound impact on females than males because of conventional standards placed on those of each gender. It’s normal, even today, for parents to teach girls to be nurturing, empathetic, and emotionally expressive. They teach boys that they’re supposed to be strong and stoic.
Those ingrained social stereotypes affect how people respond to traumatic events. In a nutshell, men are taught to hold pain inside whether it’s physical, emotional, or both. Women are taught that it’s okay to let it out.
Resulting Emotional Responses
Because of the way people are traditionally taught to respond to pain, women are more likely to openly react to it. They’re more willing to share their feelings about their negative experiences. That, in turn, prompts them to reach out for help when they’re dealing with the aftermath of trauma. Since men are taught that it’s unacceptable to admit they’re afraid or hurting, they avoid seeking help. They’re more inclined to try to handle trauma on their own.
Certain hormonal differences cause women and men to experience trauma differently as well. Hormones can influence how people respond to stress and trauma. Estrogen, which is more prominent in women, appears to help regulate emotions. In times of stress, though, the body releases other hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. Those hormones can combat the effects of estrogen and make emotional regulation more difficult. Traumatic experiences and the memories of them are stressors, so they make dealing with those events more difficult for women.
In contrast, testosterone is the primary male hormone. Some studies show that testosterone may decrease men’s reactions to stressors like traumatic experiences. At the same time, research indicates that normal testosterone levels may reduce the risks of anxiety, depression, and other mental disorders. With all that being the case, hormones could certainly play a role in the different ways men and women respond to trauma.
In addition to hormonal factors, research indicates that the brain reacts differently to trauma in different genders. Neuroimaging shows that certain portions of the right side of the brain are typically affected by fear and stress. When exposed to threats, those areas of the brain show more activity in women than in men. In those studies, men’s brains appeared less likely to respond to threats than women’s, and their reactions were less significant.
Reactions Versus Effects
Traumatic experiences seem to affect men and women differently. Studies show that may be partially because of hormonal differences and the way the brain reacts to threats. It’s also connected to the way people are taught to respond to physical and emotional pain from an early age. Since men are often taught to hold in their feelings and women are taught to express them, that naturally influences the way they react to trauma.
It’s important to keep in mind that traumatic experiences affect both men and women deeply. They can have devastating and long-lasting impacts regardless of gender or the type of trauma a person is exposed to. Reaching out for help with trauma and PTSD is equally essential for everyone. Despite certain social stereotypes, it’s not a sign of weakness; it’s simply a way to overcome a life-altering hurdle.