“From the outset, trauma challenges the just-world or core life assumptions that help individuals navigate daily life… it would be difficult to leave the house in the morning if you believed that the world was not safe, that all people are dangerous, or that life holds no promise.”
(Centre for Substance Abuse Treatment, 2014).
No two people respond to trauma in the same way; The strength of a woman’s support system, her unique set of coping skills, and the nature of the trauma she endures, are all factors which shape the impact of trauma on her brain, body, and overall life.
If the effects of trauma interfere with a woman’s functioning for longer than a month, she might be diagnosed with PTSD or Complex PTSD by a mental health professional (“DSM-V Criteria for PTSD,” 2018).
Symptoms of PTSD as outlined in the DSM include: re-experiencing the traumatic event over and over; having disturbing memories of the event; avoiding reminders of the trauma; inability to feel pleasure; difficulty focusing; problems with memory and sleep; hypervigilance (“DSM-V Criteria for PTSD,” 2019).
Trauma that an older woman has survived can influence her experience of aging – even if the trauma happened when the woman was a child and she can’t recall it fully or at all. Trauma puts an older woman at increased risk of developing heart, liver, autoimmune and neurodegenerative disease, as well as mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, and psychosis (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2014). Trauma survivors are more likely to experience distressing symptoms of menopause that include sleep disturbances, night sweats, vaginal dryness and pain during intercourse (Nogrady, 2018). Too often, the trauma a woman has experienced is unrecognized as a pivotal factor on her overall wellness and mental health.
Food for Thought: