Is She Rude Or Is It PTSD?

PTSD can show up differently in women than it does in men.

assertive woman Dmitriy Zub | Canva

I was always a little high-strung. I jumped at loud noises and I cried at romantic comedies. My father called my crying jags my "tizzy fits."

So I tried to minimize and hide my emotional sensitivity from others, and then from myself. I got pretty good at it. I became a journalist, then a Red Cross worker. I could look at gruesome photos of horrible tragedies without wincing. I could go to the edges of war zones without a racing heart.


I never thought PTSD could be a possibility, even when I started having physical PTSD symptoms. I mean, I didn't see any action, right? I didn't get shot at or see a buddy blown up. Post-traumatic stress disorder was something I believed only war veterans got. It was all about flashbacks from the front lines. Maybe I was just rude or on edge? 

Frequent irritable outbursts as a symptom of PTSD

RELATED: 6 Things To Know Before Falling In Love With Someone With PTSD

People suffering from PTSD may have bad dreams, flashbacks, scary thoughts they can't control, worry, guilt, sadness, and/or thoughts of hurting themselves or others. They may stay away from places and things that trigger a painful memory. They may start sleeping too much, or they may just say they feel on edge all the time with frequent irritable outbursts.




If you're experiencing three or more of these symptoms, you might be experiencing more than anxiety, depression, or a "bad day." You might have PTSD. Seek out help.

That cold, rude woman over there? She might have simply given up trying to name what she was feeling. It might not be that easy for her to get other people to hear her.

As time went on, I got jumpier, though. I came back Stateside. I had my kids. I stopped watching scary movies. I settled into housework and carpools. I missed the exhilaration of humanitarian work, but I thought it best if I stayed out of the fray.


Still, my symptoms got worse. I started to wake up screaming. I started having low-level anxiety almost all the time. I grew more and more irritable, even though most people outside my family complimented me on how calm I was.

That's when I sought help for my signs of PTSD. That's when I learned that any traumatic event, or any event a person views as traumatic, can set off PTSD.

So, what makes some of us react this way when others don't? The scientific data doesn't have a clear answer yet, but I theorize the repetition of traumas in women's lives accumulates and makes us more susceptible, especially when we're witnesses to or victims of trauma we don't allow ourselves to feel — when we sweep our emotions under the rug.


Because people certainly don't need to have a leg blown off or be in a firefight, they don't even have to be beaten to a pulp by a mentally ill parent or a narcissistic lover, to have PTSD.

Women are more susceptible to PTSD, and not just female vets. Recent research indicates that women are at least twice as likely to develop PTSD, experience a longer duration of post-traumatic symptoms, and display more sensitivity to the things that remind them of the trauma. And, unfortunately, there's plenty of trauma that ripples through far too many women's lives every day, including physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, and rape. Women's brains have chemicals that differ from men's, of course, but calling out those differences can just lead us back down the "blame" rabbit hole.

I believe there's a point that keeps us in a perpetual loop of fight-or-flight, with our hearts racing and our cortisol pumping. Women often suffer in silence because they don't want to leave a bad relationship, see themselves as "victims," or cause problems for those around them.



Yet women who experience or witness repeated violence, abuse, and other trauma reach a point at which they need to leave a physically or emotionally dangerous situation, practice self-care, and find a way to feel peace again by replacing the negative memories with neutral or happy ones.


RELATED: 5 Heartbreaking Signs Your Spouse Is Silently Suffering From PTSD

Even vets who have bullets flying over their heads daily but have office jobs aren't given the federal assistance afforded to those veterans who have visible disabilities. PTSD is underdiagnosed and under-treated in a land where people carry most mental illnesses around in their pockets like secrets.

woman wearing headphones

Photo: Guillem De Balanzo via Shutterstock


Instead of calling your close friend or colleague a derogatory name the next time she lashes out, ask her what's wrong.

I'm not sure exactly what the final straw was for me, but I believe it was in the delivery room where I hemorrhaged and my son and I almost died. That's what my coach and I came to realize after we went through every single trauma I could recall, sometimes multiple times.

The funny thing is, I didn't feel much fear at the time during childbirth. I kept my eyes on the prize, and that was my now 21-year-old son. The trauma in the wee hours of the morning in a delivery room followed childhood spankings, emotionally abusive relationships with narcissistic partners, a melanoma diagnosis, my time as a Red Cross worker in the "field" — where conflict was the norm — and a couple of near misses in a car. It does accumulate.

Not allowing myself to feel the fear in the moment because I had to either act or retreat actually may have been a big part of the problem. I know feeling like I wasn't brave enough was part of it as well.


If you think you might have PTSD, don't minimize your feelings, and don't blame yourself.

When we minimize, we push the traumatic stories away, and what we resist persists. We have to go over the stories a few times for them to lose their power — through journaling, group therapy, hypnotherapy, EMDR, or cognitive behavioral therapy.


Research for ways to heal PTSD advances because, sadly, so does war, and our veterans still return home injured in spirit.

I do a visualization with my clients where I take them up a mountain and they leave their "baggage" along the way. When they get to the top, they feel a lot better. First, we get perspective on what happened. Then I witnessed for them what happened. We shine the light into the corners of their lives, into the shadows. Then they release it as we hike up the beautiful mountain.

The kind of therapy or modality doesn't matter as much as seeking help, leaving a bad situation if needed, and practicing self-love. I did, and now I help people who've experienced multiple traumas to heal and get unstuck from those pesky places they may talk about as mere irritations, hiding the true seriousness of their nature — because we women have been taught to downplay our hurts.

After all, isn't anything that is making you or someone you love unhappy worth healing? You can call it rudeness or PTSD, but you can find a way to feel better.


RELATED: You Can Get PTSD From Staying In An Emotionally Abusive Relationship

Kathryn Brown Ramsperger wrote for National Geographic and Kiplinger before working as a humanitarian journalist in Africa, Europe, and the Middle East. She's also an intuitive creativity coach and creator of Step Into Your Story! (TM), as well as the award-winning author of two novels, including her latest, A Thousand Flying Things.