Signs and Symptoms of PTSD in Men

symptoms of ptsd in men

Table of Contents

Most people will go through a traumatic event at some time in their lives. And it’s typical to recover after a period of time. But some people have difficulty recovering from the experience and develop PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). Going through a traumatic experience is not rare. About 60% of men experience at least one trauma.

Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for men with PTSD to turn to substances to cope with their symptoms. At Jaywalker, we offer comprehensive rehab for men in Colorado to help deal with co-occurring disorders like PTSD and addiction. Some traumas men are more likely to experience include:

  • Accidents
  • Physical assault
  • Combat
  • Disaster
  • Witnessing a death or injury

What is PTSD?

PTSD is a mental health condition. It usually develops after a sudden traumatizing event or it can develop after repeated exposure to something upsetting and traumatizing. If you have PTSD, you may be isolating yourself from other people or feeling intense anger or sadness. You may also be having flashbacks of the traumatic event or vivid nightmares.

“Shell Shock”

In the past, symptoms of PTSD in men has been known by different names such as “shell shock” during World War I and “combat fatigue” after World War II. However, PTSD doesn’t just happen to combat veterans. It can happen to any person, of any ethnicity, nationality, or culture, at any age. PTSD affects about 3.5% of adults in the U.S. every year.

The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines post-traumatic stress disorder as “an intense, uncontrollable emotional and physical reaction to a reminder of a traumatic event or distressing memories.” This irregular response to triggers can go on for days and even years after the terrifying incident or traumatic event.

What Causes PTSD in Men?

First of all, every case of PTSD is different. Therefore, no single factor is present in every case. And symptoms aren’t necessarily different across genders. Still, there are some specific trauma events that are more likely to be experienced by men than by women, and vice versa.

Why is It Different Than Women?

Men are more likely to be in combat or high-risk employment situations. Women are more likely to suffer sexual abuse (although men can have this experience too). Experiences such as these can all lead to PTSD. Research has also revealed a difference in the age at which traumatic events occur in the lives of women and men. It has been found that men usually experience their trauma later in life, but women are more likely to experience trauma, often from physical or sexual abuse, at a younger age.

Risk Factors for PTSD

PTSD is not a sign of weakness. It can happen to anybody. There are several factors that increase the likelihood that someone will develop PTSD. Most of these factors aren’t under the person’s control. For instance, veterans with PTSD often experience flashbacks during fireworks displays or when they’re around loud noises.

Victims of violence could experience flashbacks brought on by an unexpected touch or smell that reminds them of their attacker. While anyone can experience PTSD, some symptoms tend to be more common in men. Some treatment methods might also work better for them. Symptoms of PTSD in men are more likely if the person has the following risk factors:

  • History of abuse
  • Previous traumatic experiences
  • Family history of depression or PTSD
  • Past history of substance abuse
  • Lack of social support
  • Continuing stress
  • Poor coping skills

How PTSD Can Affect Your Life

Signs and Symptoms of PTSD in Men

Most of the time, a person who experiences a traumatic event will heal from it without any lasting impacts or symptoms in their everyday life. On the other hand, a person who develops PTSD doesn’t have that same experience. Their trauma leads to symptoms that remain and even get worse over time, especially if not treated. They may go on for years without getting any better and, in many cases, the symptoms will start to interfere with relationships and daily activities.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of PTSD in Men?

To be diagnosed with PTSD, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) says a mental health professional must confirm that you’ve experienced the following symptoms for at least one month:

  • At least one invasive or re-experiencing symptom such as reliving the traumatic event, bad dreams, or continual thoughts about the event.
  • At least one avoidance behavior where you take measures to avoid potential triggers that might remind you of the traumatic event. This includes changing your usual daily routine.
  • At least two arousal and reactivity symptoms. This means feeling on edge frequently or on high alert and having problems managing your daily tasks.
  • At least two cognition and mood symptoms.

Men with PTSD in particular often find it more difficult to control their anger and regulating their mood, compared to women with PTSD. Similarly, substance use and withdrawal from family and friends is seen more often in men with PTSD compared to their female counterparts.

How Common is PTSD?

Based on the population of the United States:

  • About 6% of the population (6 out of every 100 people) will have PTSD at some time in their lives.
  • About 12 million adults will have PTSD during any given year. This is a small portion of people who have gone through trauma.
  • About 8 out of every 100 women (8%) develop PTSD at some point in their lives compared with about 4 of every 100 men.
  • The main cause of PTSD is sexual violence at 33%. 94% of rape victims develop PTSD during the first two weeks after their traumatic event.
  • PTSD is most common among adults between the ages of 45 and 49 at 9.2%.
  • Civilian women have a lifetime general rate of 8% compared to 13.4% for military women.
  • 11% to 23% of veterans have dealt with PTSD within any given year.
  • 30% of first responders have PTSD.

Who Suffers from PTSD the Most?

According to statistics regarding PTSD:

  • 45 to 59 year old adults are more affected by PTSD than adults over 60
  • More women struggle with PTSD than men
  • People in the military are more likely to have PTSD than civilians

Complications of PTSD

Post-traumatic stress disorder can upset your whole life. This includes jobs, relationships, health, and the ability to enjoy everyday activities. Having PTSD can also increase your possibility of developing other mental health problems such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Eating disorders
  • Issues with substance abuse
  • Suicidal thoughts and actions

Related Conditions

Acute Stress Disorder – Symptoms are similar but they typically occur between three days and one month after the event. About half the people with acute stress disorder go on to have PTSD.

Adjustment Disorder – Occurs in response to a stressful life event (or events). The symptoms a person experiences in response to the stressor are usually more severe or more intense than is reasonably expected for the type of event.

Treatment Options for PTSD

Since PTSD can appear differently from person to person, there are multiple treatment options available. Your therapist will need to work with you to find the best one for your symptoms. Some of the treatment options that might be considered include:

Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT)

CPT is a talk therapy with the intention of reconsidering how you see your traumatic event. This makes it different from cognitive-behavioral therapy It’s common for someone with PTSD to blame themselves for what happened. Sometimes they feel ashamed that they couldn’t prevent it from happening. The goal of CPT is to take this negative outlook and find ways to minimize its power over you.

Prolonged Exposure (PE)

Prolonged exposure is a type of therapy that lasts about 3 months. The goal of this type of therapy is to slowly and gradually expose you to the elements of your trauma in a controlled and safe environment. PE may seem scary or intimidating, but your therapist will create a safe environment. There are two types of prolonged exposure therapy:

Imaginal Exposure

This approach requires you to visualize and describe the details of your traumatic experience. You’ll be encouraged to share in the present tense as you travel back through the event. By revisiting the event directly, the aim is to reduce the fear and anxiety when thinking of it.

In Vivo Exposure

This method examines the external elements of your trauma. If it’s linked with a place, item, or person, this type of exposure will gradually reacquaint you with those things in a nonthreatening way. Between therapy sessions, you will be asked to interact with these possible triggers at your own pace to help reduce the fear and anxiety associated with them.

Internal Family Systems (IFS)

IFS can be an effective treatment in the case of complex trauma or continuing traumas that last for some months or years. This method focuses on returning you to a state of “wholeness,” so you can unify the parts of you (your internal family) that feel disconnected due to the trauma.

Psychodynamic Psychotherapy

This approach focuses on the root of your challenges. It probes what unconscious beliefs or lessons you may have picked up throughout your life and how they relate to your behavior at the present time. Research shows that this type of therapy can be effective for people with combat-related PTSD, interpersonal trauma, and traumatic brain injury (TBI).

Finding Solutions at Jaywalker

Signs and Symptoms of PTSD in MenIf you think that you might have PTSD, there are many mental health professionals and resources available. You will probably find it better to get help sooner rather than later. PTSD symptoms can get worse and interfere more with your daily life as time passes.

And if you are struggling with PTSD, it’s very possible that you are also struggling with a substance use disorder (SUD). At Jaywalker in Colorado, we are acquainted with the struggles that go along with addiction and mental health issues.

Our staff is experienced in treating the dual diagnosis of SUD and PTSD. PTSD symptoms can get worse and interfere more with your daily life as time passes.

At Jaywalker, you will have a team of specialists in mental health, trauma, and addiction. Our immersive 12-Step program and continuum of care is unmatched for adult men who are committed to creating a new life of sobriety. Fight the good fight and win. Contact us today.


author avatar
Stefan Bate, MA, LAC, CCTP Chief Clinical Officer
Stefan Bate, BA, MA, LAC holds a Master's Degree in Applied Psychology from Regis University and is a Licensed Addiction Counselor in the state of Colorado. Stefan has wide-ranging experience in the field of addiction recovery including: working as a recovery coach, therapist, and program director.

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