Spotting Signs of PTSD in Women: Washington Insights

Spotting signs of PTSD in women is not that simple. We Level Up Washington explains all you need to know. Reach out to us. We can help you find support.

A highly distressing disorder that might develop after a traumatic event is known as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It is a well-researched topic, which is why we now know that there are differences in signs of PTSD in women and men. Following our commitment to address female mental health on more occasions than just Women Health week, we would like to share some valuable insights on PTSD in women and, with that, encourage you to seek help when you need it.

We will help you understand PTSD symptoms in women, their specificities, and their impact on one´s life. Furthermore, we will leave you with some tips on how to seek diagnosis and treatment, as well as how you can find help.

Understanding PTSD in Women

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychiatric disorder that can develop in some people following a traumatic event. They could have experienced it, witnessed it, or even just heard of it. Not everyone who goes through such an experience will end up struggling with PTSD, but those who do will require treatment to overcome symptoms that can be significantly impairing. PTSD affects around 3.5% of U.S. adults every year.

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Signs and symptoms of PTSD can start occurring three months after the traumatic event, but they can start showing later as well. For someone to be diagnosed with PTSD, they have to experience all four groups of symptoms for at least a month, and the symptoms have to impact their lives. Someone with PTSD will have:

  • At least one re-experiencing symptom (having intrusive thoughts or memories, nightmares, or vivid flashbacks that feel like reliving a traumatic experience).
  • At least one avoidance symptom (being avoidant with people, objects, or places reminding you of the traumatic experience; changing daily routine to avoid the experience).
  • At least two arousal and reactivity symptoms (being irritable, behaving in a self-destructive way, having angry outbursts, being easily scared, feeling on guard, having trouble sleeping or concentrating).
  • At least two cognitive and mood symptoms (not being able to remember details of the traumatic event, having distorted beliefs about yourself and others, feeling anger or shame, being disinterested in previously enjoyable activities).

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The signs of PTSD in women may be different. PTSD in women, compared to men, is more likely to include:

  • Being easily startled
  • Having more trouble feeling emotions or feeling numb
  • Avoiding things that remind them of traumatic events
  • Feeling depressed or anxious

Additionally, PTSD symptoms in women tend to last longer, on average, 4 years versus 1 year in men. Women are less likely to have alcohol or drug problems after the traumatic event, unlike men. Finally, PTSD in women can lead to physical problems, just as it can in men.

A woman in seelingly good mental state that might be showing fine signs of PTSD in women.
Signs of PTSD in women might be more difficult to spot.

Common Symptoms and Signs of PTSD in Women

Research consistently shows that signs of PTSD in a woman are more intense than they would be in a man. Those signs manifest on an emotional, physical, and behavioral level.

When it comes to the affective side of PTSD, women are more likely to experience anxiety, depression, mood swings, and even feeling numb following the traumatic event. As for physical signs of PTSD in a woman, they are more likely to include aches and fatigue. Finally, when it comes to behavior, in addition to general avoidance symptoms, they might experience changes in relationships.

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Emotional signs of PTSD in a woman

Anxiety is among common signs of PTSD in women, so much so that it can manifest itself as panic attacks triggered by places or objects reminding a woman of the traumatic event. Emotional numbness is also more prevalent in women. It refers to shutting down overwhelming or highly distressing feelings or getting detached from others, lacking emotion, losing interest, having difficulty feeling positive emotions, and leaning toward social isolation. 

Physical signs of PTSD in a woman

As with men with PTSD, women are likely to struggle with sleep. They are also likely to feel tired and experience a variety of pains, like headaches and body aches. They are also known to develop a specific condition, the so-called anxiety rash symptom, in relation to the high anxiety they experience as a part of their PTSD symptomatology. 

Behavioral signs of PTSD in a woman

Knowing that women with PTSD are prone to panic attacks, it comes as no surprise that they will avoid triggering places, people, and objects to avoid anxiety and panic attacks. There might be changes in personal relationships as, in many cases, PTSD in women is related to traumatic events that make women distrustful and scared.

Special Considerations for Women with PTSD

Though, on average, women experience fewer traumatic events than men, they are twice as likely to develop PTSD. The World Health Organization (WHO) warns about gender-specific trauma, like domestic violence, childhood sexual abuse, rapes, and attempted rapes, that are more likely to occur in females. 

Another specificity to keep in mind when it comes to PTSD in women is that, due to stigma and social pressure, they are less likely to recognize an event as being traumatic, and they are less likely to seek help from either their inner circle or professionals. 

With this in mind, supporting women in your environment is increasingly important. Learning to recognize the fine signs of PTSD in women is a good start, but encouraging them to take care of themselves is the key. You might suggest they practice self-care or engage in activities that promote wellness and well-being. You can also help them find a professional they can speak to and who can help them overcome their challenges. You can also simply be there, as having a community can make all the difference in the recovery process.

A psychotherapist holding a pen.
Professionals are able to recognize signs of PTSD in women, and their role in assessment and recovery is indispensable.

Diagnosis and Assessment of PTSD in Women

There is an overwhelming amount of information online about mental disorders. Not all of them come from mental health experts, and they might be unverified and untrue. Furthermore, mental disorders might share some symptoms, making it difficult to assess which disorder you might be struggling with. All of this implies that a professional mental health assessment is necessary. 

Mental health professionals, especially those specializing in PTSD, can more accurately assess PTSD symptoms in women, distinguish them from other trauma-related states, and establish an accurate diagnosis that later shapes treatment. Due to their knowledge and experience, psychologists and psychotherapists are more attuned to the fine signals of PTSD in women and can spot even those that clients try to hide. 

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We at We Level Up Washington understand that seeking professional help can be hard and uncomfortable, so relying on online sources might be the only option you are able to do at the moment. Here are a few tips on how to avoid drawing the wrong conclusions when seeking information online:

  • Opt for reliable sources: The American Psychological Association (APA) is the safest source of information on mental health. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) is another valuable and reliable source of information. Renowned mental health centers, like We Level Up WA, can also be a good choice for investigating certain mental health topics. However, keep in mind that we do not provide PTSD treatment that requires long-term therapy. What we offer is trauma-informed treatment, and we can help you find the right support.
  • Practice critical thinking: As with any information, think of it before you accept it as true. Ask yourself if the information makes sense, if it appears in multiple sources, and if it comes from experts in the mental health field. 
  • Consult experts: Talk to your physician or therapist if you have one. Use the free consultation option to inform yourself. You can always reach out to We Level Up Washington for that sort of phone or email consultation. All our calls are confidential and non-binding.

Treatment Options in Washington

Once spotted, PTSD symptoms in women need to be addressed. Following a mental health assessment, PTSD treatment in Washington is the next step. Depending on the severity of symptoms and their impact on one´s life, psychotherapy, medications, or both may be suggested as a way to treat PTSD.

Psychotherapy is crucial for understanding trauma and the trauma response. This way, it is not only possible to treat PTSD symptoms in women but also help them find the courage to face trauma and overcome it. At We Level Up WA, although we don’t treat PTSD per se, we employ different evidence-based psychotherapy and trauma-informed treatments, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), eye-movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), exposure and prolonged exposure therapy, and stress-incoordination training (SIT). 

In some cases, we also suggest medications. They can treat a concrete symptom (like insomnia) or help process things more clearly, making psychotherapy more successful. Additionally, support groups can help you feel less isolated, and other women´s stories can be inspiring.

Keeping in mind that PTSD can be accompanied by other disorders, depression and anxiety disorder being the most common ones, as well as substance abuse, it may be necessary to explore dual diagnosis treatment in Spokane WA. That is the way to ensure both conditions are treated simultaneously for the maximum effect.

Two people hugging.
Women with PTSD are less likely to seek help, making support from their loved ones that much more important.

Seek Help

Social pressure might push women with PTSD away from seeking help, but looking for support once you spot signs of PTSD in women in your environment is crucial for their recovery. PTSD in women can have a harmful impact not only on their lives but also on the lives of their children, making it important to address it as soon as possible.

We at We Level Up Washington can help you find the right support and recover. Call us to get information and advice.

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“Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder | Office on Women’s Health.”,

National Institute of Mental Health. “Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.” National Institute of Mental Health, 2023,

Taylor-Desir, Monica. “What Is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?”, American Psychiatric Association, Nov. 2022,

Novotney, Amy. “Women Who Experience Trauma Are Twice as Likely as Men to Develop PTSD. Here’s Why.”, American Psychological Association, 2023,

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