Women 10% More Likely Than Men to Suffer Heightened PTSD Response
How to treat PTSD
If you’ve experienced trauma in the past, you know that it can be difficult to overcome. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a serious mental health condition that results from a major traumatic event. It can happen to anyone.
Nevertheless, people’s responses to trauma can vary significantly. It’s possible for two survivors of the same near-death car accident to be affected in different ways. One might never be able to enter a car again, while the other might start taking long road trips to celebrate being alive.
There are several factors that contribute to a person’s trauma response. Some of them are environmental, while others are genetic. The main gene that influences your PTSD response is called the ADRA2B gene.
Having the suboptimal version of this gene makes you more likely to suffer a heightened PTSD response. According to recent research by the DNA Company, women are 10% more likely to have the suboptimal version of the ADRA2B gene than men. This means women are more likely to carry trauma with them long after the event has passed.
Causes of PTSD
There are endless types of traumatic events that can lead to PTSD. Here are some of the most common ones:
- Military combat
- Abuse or neglect
- Sexual or physical assault
- Car or motorcycle accident
- Natural disaster
- Severe injury
- Diagnosis of serious illness
- Witnessing violence and death
If you have been traumatized by an event that doesn’t fit into any of these categories, that doesn’t mean your trauma isn’t real. Regardless of what has caused the trauma, the best thing to do is to seek help from a therapist who specializes in PTSD. Open up to a trusted family member or friend who can walk through the process with you.
Remember, everyone experiences PTSD in different ways. These symptoms can point to possible PTSD:
- Inability to stop thinking about the traumatic event
- Mood changes including hopelessness, numbness, or anxiety
- Feeling overwhelming guilt or shame
- Nightmares and flashbacks
- Self-harm and suicidal thoughts
- Panic attacks
- Struggling to concentrate, sleep, or eat
- Emotional distress when reminded of the event
- Self-destructive behavior including substance abuse
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms in relationship to a traumatic event, no matter how much time has passed since the event, it’s important to seek help immediately. Your mental health matters, and you have nothing to be ashamed of.
Certain risk factors make you more likely to experience PTSD after a traumatic event. If you have a history of mental health disorders, you’re more likely to develop PTSD. If you experienced further trauma around the event and/or had little support from your loved ones, you’re at higher risk of developing PTSD as well. For example, a child who is sexually abused and has no one to talk to will likely have a difficult time with PTSD.
On the other hand, if you had a strong support network surrounding the event, you may be less likely to experience PTSD. If you feel good about the choices you made during the event and you were able to use positive coping strategies afterwards, you’re at lower risk of developing PTSD.
The impact of genetics on PTSD
One of the most overlooked factors that influences whether someone develops severe PTSD is their genes. The ADRA2B gene is the primary gene that determines a person’s tendency towards suffering PTSD.
As the gene that controls your fight or flight response, the ADRA2B gene kicks in when your body encounters a negative or stressful situation. When this happens, noradrenaline binds with your noradrenaline receptor. Your pupils dilate, your muscles become tense, and your brain begins to process information more quickly.
These physical changes are your body’s way of preparing to fight or flee the stressful situation. It’s normal to experience these things when facing real danger. After all, the fight or flight response serves you well in those circumstances. The problem comes when your noradrenaline receptor stays on even when there’s no danger.
That’s what can happen if you have a deletion in your ADRA2B gene. You’ll have a heightened emotional response for a longer period of time, making you more sensitive to negative situations. At times, you can actually imprint negative stimuli. You may find yourself being triggered constantly or clinging to negative events from the past.
Those who have the D/D or I/D genotype of the ADRA2B gene are more likely to attach strong feelings and emotions to negative memories. They struggle with intrusive thoughts, particularly surrounding any trauma they’ve experienced. This is what can make them suffer PTSD in a more heightened way than those who have the I/I genotype of the ADRA2B gene.
The D/D genotype, which is the suboptimal version of the ADRA2B gene, is 10% more likely to occur in women than men. This means it’s more common for women to experience a severe PTSD response than men. Of course, all genders can have this genotype and suffer the subsequent heightened PTSD response.
Case study: Trish
Trish* experienced significant childhood trauma. When she came to us, she was having a hard time in her family relationships. She seemed to be functioning well in a work setting but completely falling apart at home.
When we looked into her genes, we found that her ability to deal with negative stimuli was highly suboptimal. Not only did she have the D/D genotype of the ADRA2B gene, but she also had low brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) levels. Because of Trish’s genetics, the weight of the trauma was more than she could bear.
After following our therapeutic recommendations to regulate her genetic expression, Trish was completely transformed. Her family relationships were mended and her quality of life improved overall. Once she experienced healing, she was able to become the emotional leader in her family.
How to treat PTSD
If you have experienced PTSD, you know that it can feel hopeless. Thankfully, there are some ways you can improve your PTSD. Here are some things you can try, particularly if you have the D/D or I/D genotype of the ADRA2B gene:
- Find a therapist who specializes in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Develop relaxing habits such as getting a weekly massage, meditating, and visiting the sauna
- Brew calming teas such as lavender, chamomile, and lemon tea
- Make a strategy for how to manage each stressor in your life
- Take supplements such as vitamin B12, magnesium, ashwagandha, rhodiola rosea, and l-theanine
- Get plenty of exercise and stick to a nutritious diet
- Open up to family and friends so they can support you
- Seek medical help when necessary
Are you wondering whether you’re genetically predisposed to a heightened PTSD response? The best way to find out is by decoding your genes through our 360 DNA Report. You’ll discover whether you have the suboptimal version of the ADRA2B gene as well as 37 other custom reports surrounding sleep, diet, nutrition, hormones, fitness, cardiovascular health, immunity, and behavior.
Each custom report includes your genetic tendencies as well as practical steps you can take to optimize your health and wellness. You are a unique individual, and you deserve health strategies that reflect your unique genome. Get started today.
*Client’s name is withheld to protect her privacy.
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