Chromosomes to Social Contexts: Sex and Gender Differences in PTSD

Curr Psychiatry Rep. 2018 Oct 22;20(12):114. doi: 10.1007/s11920-018-0981-0.


Purpose of review: This review highlights recent research on sex- and gender-related factors in the prevalence, symptom expression, and treatment of PTSD. Further discoveries about the underlying mechanisms of sex and gender effects have the potential to shape innovative directions for research.

Recent findings: The prevalence of PTSD is substantially higher among women, but women show a modest advantage with respect to treatment response. There is evidence of greater heritability among females. Women are more likely to experience sexual and intimate violence, childhood trauma exposure, and repeated trauma exposures. Specific characteristics of social contexts act as gender-linked risks for PTSD. Among individuals diagnosed with PTSD, men and women are similar in phenotypic expression. Though research has yet to fully account for the factors that explain sex- and gender- related effects on PTSD, emerging research suggests these effects occur across multiple levels. Shared risk factors for trauma exposure and PTSD merit further investigation. Both social and biological contexts merit investigation to understand sex-linked differences in heritability.

Keywords: Gender; Genetic; PTSD; Post-traumatic stress disorder; Sex; Social context.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adverse Childhood Experiences / statistics & numerical data
  • Domestic Violence / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Sex Factors
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / genetics*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / therapy