Why Is there a gender gap?
Note: “Men”, “Women”, “Boys”, and “Girls” in this article refer to assigned sex at birth as we are discussing gender socialization. That is not to discount anyone’s identity but to discuss the effects of society and gender socialization on young children.
Likelihood of being victimized (particularly in childhood)
One of the leading causes for developing dissociative 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 silencing male victims and a lack of reporting. Still, the numbers are clear; more female children are targeted and abused. Therefore, more women are likely to develop these disorders.
The stifling of conversations about men’s mental health and how that limits them from getting diagnosed
We do need to recognize when having conversations about the disproportionately higher rate of women being the victims of sexual abuse, of women being diagnosed with these disorders, etc., that we do 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 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 discussing/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 taken into account when speaking about the gender gap. But, unfortunately, there is a gender gap, and these factors don’t close it – many more women are being sexually abused than men, and there are still many more women with dissociative disorders. That being said, it’s essential to recognize that a reasonably large piece will be missing from any study or statistic due to society and the socialization of men and boys around mental health.
Being socialized toward 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 to 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 will be less likely to develop naturally in a child’s toolbelt of coping mechanisms if their response to traumatic situations is to Fight. Dissociation will more likely develop in people with Freeze responses – though also potentially in those with Fawn responses in some specific cases. 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.