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20 November 2006
Is Trauma Just A Normal Part Of Everyday Life?

A recent analysis of the last quarter-century of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) research raises the question: do we all suffer from PTSD? The meta-analysis of PTSD research, published in Psychological Bulletin, shows that while men have a higher risk for traumatic events during their lifetime, women experience higher rates of PTSD symptoms, such as re-living trauma, avoidance, hyper-arousal, numbing and anxiety.

One would perhaps expect that traumatic events elicit similar symptoms in males and females alike, with men suffering more often due to their elevated exposure to war, disasters, accidents and death. But the study unveiled one major difference between male and female trauma; female trauma is more likely to be of an abusive sexual nature. Based on this finding, researchers concluded that sexual trauma is more likely to cause PTSD symptoms than other types of trauma. But the researchers admit that this could be due to how PTSD is diagnosed.

"PTSD may be diagnosed more in women, in part, because of the criteria used to define it. Cognitive and emotional responses to traumatic events make a diagnosis of PTSD more likely. So even though men may experience more traumas, they don't seem to have the same emotional responses to traumatic events," say researcher David F. Tolin.

The review raised further poignant questions highlighting the subjective nature of PTSD diagnosis in regard to our media saturated culture, by considering the traumatic effects of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the whole nation. "People from all over the U.S. could technically have been classified in research as having 'experienced' a terrorist attack just by watching it on TV. This is a major problem for trauma research because it's hard to determine whether someone has really been traumatized or not," explained Tolin.

Source: American Psychological Organization

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