Does Traumatic Stress Impact Boys and Girls Differently?

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male and female symbols

People who experience trauma at an early age are often greatly affected, sometimes for the rest of their lives. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a common disorder that people suffer from, which can include nightmares, flashbacks, anxious thoughts, trouble with memory, depression, and more. Children can be severely impacted by trauma especially because at young ages, their brains are still developing and they are still learning about themselves and the world.

A recent study conducted in 2016 by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine found that among youth who suffer from PTSD, structural differences were present between the brains of boys and girls. The main difference was within one part of the insula, a brain region that detects cues from the body and processes emotions and empathy. The insula helps us regulate our feelings, emotions, and behaviors.

The study’s findings on differences of insula between both sexes could mean greater understanding in how each sex copes and processes when suffering from PTSD. It is known that of people who suffer from a traumatic experience, some individuals suffer from PTSD and others do not. A research team conducted brain scans of 59 participants aged 9-17. Thirty of them, with 14 of them being girls and 16 being boys, experienced trauma symptoms, and the rest did not. Only 5 of the traumatized youth had only experienced one traumatic event – the rest had experienced multiple, or chronic trauma.

While the researchers did not find any differences in the youth that did not suffer from PTSD, they did find differences between the boys and girls who did suffer from PTSD, particularly within the insula called the anterior circular sulcus. This brain region was larger in volume in traumatized boys compared to those not traumatized, but was smaller in volume to girls who were traumatized compared to those not traumatized.

The study’s findings implicate that a smaller insula volume in young girls may lead to them aging quicker, or becoming more mature at a faster rate. The study’s findings also suggest that PTSD may develop differently in boys and girls, meaning that different treatment methods may be needed to help them cope and recover more efficiently. With this new research, we may be able to better assist our children so that they can recover from their traumatic experiences in a healthy way.

If you or someone you know has suffered from a traumatic event and is experiencing PTSD, please reach out to a therapist. There are many therapy methods available – you are not alone and can recover from this. With many tools, resources, and people ready to support you, all you need to do is call someone for help.





If you are ready to begin your journey to recovery, call Avalon Malibu today. We will be there with you every step of the way; we believe in holistic, integrative treatment, meaning that we will promote wellness of your mind, body, and spirit. Take that first step. Call us at 855-408-8934.

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