Note: “Men”, “Women”, “Boys”, and “Girls” in this article refers to cis assigned sex at birth due to the fact we are discussing gender socialization. This is not meant to be about or connected to identity – it is about socialization. That is not to discount anyone’s identity, but merely to discuss the effects of society and gender socialization.
Likelihood of Being Victimized (Particularly in Childhood)
One of the main causes for developing these disorders – particularly DID – is experiencing repeated sexual trauma in early childhood. Statistics range across multiple studies but all agree that young girls are disproportionately abused in this way at a higher rate than young boys. There are – of course – issues with societal pressures of silencing of male victims and lack of reporting, but the numbers are clear and there is very obvious majority of female children that are targeted and abused. Therefore, there are going to be more women likely to develop these disorders.
The Stifling of Conversations About Men’s Mental Health
One thing we do need to recognize when having these conversations about statistics of the disproportionately higher rate of women being the victims of sexual abuse, of women being diagnosed with these disorders, etc., is that we also need to have the conversation about men’s issues that could be stopping them from being included in those statistics.
Men are socialized not to speak out about being victims. They’re supposed to be the protector – even the aggressor – never the victim. Especially when it comes to any type of sexual violence, men are going to be much less likely, based on how they are socialized, to report. Additionally, men are extremely socialized away from speaking about/getting treatment for mental health. Therefore, men are less likely to get diagnosed with anything, much less to be in treatment long enough to receive a complex diagnosis.
All of these factors need to be understood and considered when discussing the gender gap. There is a gender gap and these factors definitely don’t close it – there are still many more women being sexually abused than men, and there are still many more women with dissociative disorders. That being said, it’s important to recognize that there is going to be a fairly large piece missing from any study or statistic due to society and socialization of men and boys around mental health.
Being Socialized Towards Different Trauma Responses
There are four main trauma response categories – Fight, Flight, Freeze, and Fawn. Growing up, boys and girls are socialized to respond differently when in a traumatic scenario. Boys will be socialized to respond with Fight, maybe Flight, rarely Freeze, and never Fawn. Girls, on the other hand, are socialized entirely differently. Girls are socialized to respond with Fawn or Flight or Freeze, and rarely Fight.
Dissociation is going to be less likely to develop naturally in a child’s toolbelt of coping mechanisms if their response to traumatic situations is Fight. Dissociation will more likely develop in people with Freeze responses – though also potentially in those with Fawn responses in some specific situations. Therefore, due to the socialization of women and men/boys and girls in society and our trauma responses, women will be more likely to develop dissociation as a coping mechanism when in a traumatic situation.