Are Female Troops More Likely to Get PTSD?

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Women may be at greater risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder than men because of what researchers call their “heightened fear response.”

California scientists examined individuals with PTSD symptoms and found that the women in the study developed a stronger fear response than the men during so-called “conditioning tasks.” Then – once conditioned to respond fearfully – the women were more likely to have stronger responses to fear-inducing situations and actions.

University of California at San Francisco researchers, affiliated with the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center and its Northern California Institute for Research and Education, suggest this might reflect a pre-existing vulnerability, or might develop in a gender-dependent way as PTSD manifests itself.

“Differences in the learning of fear may be one mechanism that may be important in the development of PTSD,” said Sabra Inslicht, a UCSF assistant professor of psychiatry and the lead author of a study into the topic published in the Oct. 26 online edition of the Journal of Psychiatric Research.

Dr. Inslicht continued:

The preliminary findings of our experiment suggest that women with PTSD had greater fear-conditioning responses than did men with PTSD. This suggests that there may be differences in how men and women learn to fear. That may be one reason that the rates of PTSD are higher in women compared to men.

The research continues.