Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in Men

By John Shin, MD

Both males and females can develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) with exposure to traumatic events.  This article is about PTSD and men, in particular.  PTSD affects up to 4% of all men in the United States. It is a very debilitating medical condition that negatively impacts men who experienced traumatic experiences. Rates of PTSD are higher among war veterans and first responders (such as police, firefighters, and emergency medical personnel). Men who experience trauma can exhibit moodiness, irritability, anxiety, depression, and develop alcohol and/or substance use disorders. It can be effectively managed with early recognition and appropriate treatment. 

What is PTSD? It is a symptom complex consisting of intrusive thoughts, persistent avoidance of reminders of the trauma, negative thoughts and moods associated with the traumatic event, and marked change in arousal and reactivity associated with the trauma.  These may include nightmares, intrusive thoughts, and avoidance of places or things that trigger memories of the traumatic event, feeling numb or detached, or being irritable and “on edge”. 

Who gets PTSD? Exposure of multiple traumas and early exposure to trauma may predispose someone to develop PTSD. Combat situations, exposure to violence, scenes of death or serious injury, and younger age of exposure to trauma are risk factors for developing PTSD. It is not a sign of weakness and anyone exposed to a high enough level of trauma can develop PTSD. Up to 25% of all military personnel in a combat area will develop PTSD and/or Traumatic Brain Injury. 

What is the impact of PTSD?  PTSD has a devastating impact on the men and their families. One can develop significant depression, anxiety, and sometimes drug and alcohol problems.  It negatively impacts on one’s ability to work and form positive relationships with family and friends and maintain those relationships.  PTSD robs the worth, value and dignity of the men with this medical condition. 

What can be done? Early assessment and appropriate treatment are needed to treat this psychiatric condition.  Trauma- focused therapy and prudent use of medications can be helpful. Getting the support and resources needed to treat PTSD are all beneficial. Making sense of the trauma and finding a meaning and purpose in life, in context of the trauma, can help the journey towards healing. The path may be long and arduous, but with the proper treatment, one can overcome and lead a more meaningful and productive life.