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PTSD Triggers After Sexual Assault

Monday, 07 August 2017 06:00  by Samantha R.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a debilitating type of anxiety disorder commonly associated with military service. Despite the initial research being done primarily on men who suffered trauma during service in the military, women are actually more likely to suffer from PTSD than men. PTSD can develop after any type of trauma and is not unusual in those who have been exposed to car accidents, domestic violence, or abuse. The emotions created by experiencing or witnessing a trauma become too much to process, and the brain gets stuck in a negative thought pattern and needs help moving forward.

Not everyone who witnesses trauma gets PTSD, and the disorder can develop months or even years after the incident. The symptoms and causes of PTSD vary between men and women. Women often develop PTSD as a result of sexual assault or other violence, either experienced in childhood or adulthood, and their symptoms may not be triggered until months or years after the incident, and sometimes not until they attempt to have intimate relations with someone else.

Symptoms of PTSD in Women

Women tend to experience the symptoms of PTSD differently from men, often pulling into themselves and shutting down. Often women are reluctant to express their anger at the situation or the perpetrator and instead take their feelings out on themselves. They take on misplaced shame and guilt as if they were responsible for what happened to them.

These are some of the symptoms that women experience when they are struggling with PTSD:

  • Withdrawal from loved ones
  • Self-destructive behavior
  • Memory problems
  • Recurring distressing memories
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Persistent negative mood
  • Changes in sleep pattern
  • Lack of arousal
  • Exaggerated startle response
  • Angry outbursts

Women are more likely to become a danger to themselves rather than others when they are experiencing PTSD, and it can escalate into a debilitating condition when left untreated.

Common Sexual Assault PTSD Triggers

PTSD is marked by repetition of memories and scenarios from the incident that are disturbing. Your brain tries to figure out why it happened by considering “what if” and “if only” versions of the incident. The scenarios can even elicit a stronger emotional response than the original incident did.

Attempts to block out all this thinking about what happened may work for a short period of time, until you encounter a trigger. A trigger is a place, a person, a smell or anything that reminds you of the trauma. As soon as you perceive the trigger, your mind goes right back to the trauma as if it were happening all over again.

Triggers can be extremely personal, but some common triggers include:

  • Witnessing a situation
  • Seeing images or videos
  • Hearing words or phrases
  • Visiting places associated with the experience
  • Acts of intimacy

Anything that reminds you of your trauma can act as a trigger. It could even be a particular smell or other sensory perception that you are not consciously aware of. Your PTSD can be triggered at any time when you encounter the right stimulus, and you may feel powerless to avoid the associated emotions and reaction.

After experiencing a trauma like sexual assault or emotional abuse, it is possible to develop PTSD. If you think you might be suffering from PTSD, reach out for help right away. You can start by taking our online self-evaluation to see if you may need to seek treatment after a traumatic event.

To learn more about PTSD treatment options for women, contact Brookhaven Retreat today. Brookhaven is a women’s-only mental health treatment facility that combines effective therapy options with compassion in a beautiful setting. We can answer all of your questions about PTSD and how our treatment programs have helped women experiencing the same fears and anxieties as you. Remember, you are not alone.

Last modified on Tuesday, 29 August 2017 05:30

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