Empaths, women, trauma, and PTSD.

Empaths, trauma, women & PTSD.

When you think of PTSD, do you think only of veterans and their experiences in combat? Well, think again. Anyone who has experienced a severe trauma or ongoing abuse can develop PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) or CPTSD (Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder).

“Domestic violence, rape, child abuse and neglect, terrorist attacks, natural disasters, car accidents — these are just a few of the traumas that can lead to PTSD.

“However, It can also come from events that appear far less dramatic — such as ongoing bullying, a playground accident, emotional neglect or a medical procedure during childhood. It is important to recognize the myth that only obviously life-threatening events carry the risk of PTSD. Rather, PTSD is the result of the reactions, perceptions and biology of the person traumatized.”

PTSD: Using New Knowledge
to Help Survivors Heal


The difference between PTSD and CPTSD.

According to childhoodtraumarecovery.com, severe, long-lasting interpersonal trauma, such as growing up in an abusive household is likely to created symptoms that go beyond PTSD. The diagnosis of Complex PTSD is used to describe this level.

There has been some controversy regarding the difference between post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and complex post traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD) amongst researchers. … Research has now demonstrated that the effects of severe, long-lasting interpersonal trauma go above and beyond the symptoms caused by PTSD.

Empaths & trauma.

Based on my experience, if you’re an empath or a Highly Sensitive Person, you’re even more likely to be affected by any kind of trauma. This is likely to make you more susceptible to developing PTSD.

In cases where the trauma occurred as a young child, you may have extreme reactions to certain circumstances, people, or events without knowing why. If you don’t remember the trauma or it occurred before you could verbalize it, these reactions can be symptoms of PTSD or CPTSD.

Trauma and chronic abuse create physical changes in the nervous system. The causes and symptoms of PTSD and CPTSD aren’t just “in your head;” they’re in your brain.

Symptoms of PTSD in women.

In it’s article Women, Trauma, and PTSD, The National Center for PTSD describes the gender differences in PTSD symptoms:

“Some PTSD symptoms are more common in women than men. Women are more likely to be jumpy, to have more trouble feeling emotions, and to avoid things that remind them of the trauma than men….Women with PTSD are more likely to feel depressed and anxious, while men with PTSD are more likely to have problems with alcohol or drugs. Both women and men who experience PTSD may develop physical health problems.”

Other symptoms may include: nightmares; “flashbacks,” where a trigger in the current environment causes the same feelings that occurred in the original trauma: feeling uncomfortable in or avoiding situations related to the trauma; and, avoiding thinking about or discussing anything related to the trauma you experienced.

Women are more likely than men to develop self-destructive habits to suppress the memories of or emotions associated with trauma. These can include skin picking (excoriation disorder/dermatillomania), hair pulling (trichotillomania), anorexia, bulimia, and hoarding.

I’ve had experience with all of these, and I’ve never met female trauma victim who hasn’t engaged in at least one type of self-harm. But maybe that’s just me.

Are you suffering from some form of PTSD?

If you think you may be suffering from PTSD, take one (or all) of these online quizzes:

If you do, know that you are not alone. Talk to someone, do your own research, find a local or online support group, make an appointment with a counselor. And be as kind to yourself as you can be.