Harvard Mental Health Letter

The risk for PTSD: New findings

New studies explore the high rate of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in women and an unexpected association between IQ and PTSD risk.

It's well known that many more women than men are given a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder. A meta-analysis in the American Psychological Association's journal Psychological Bulletin reveals more about the causes of the difference.

The analysis covered several hundred studies and many kinds of traumatic experience — defined as an experience that involves actual or threatened death, injury, or loss of physical integrity and (according to the most recent diagnostic manual of the American Psychiatric Association) inspires fear, helplessness, or horror. The traumas included child sexual abuse, other child abuse and neglect, adult sexual and other assaults, accidents, disasters, combat, war, terrorism, serious illness or injury, and witnessing death or injury. Symptoms of PTSD include reliving the traumatic event, avoidance, emotional numbing, and heightened arousal.

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