Gender differences in psychological distress and trauma symptoms 
In College Students
 Alyson Faires
Faculty Sponsor: Dr. Ann Elliott
     In recent years, college counseling centers have been faced with increased demands for services despite decreased resources, which has made it necessary to implement new procedures to address these challenges. For example, although college counseling centers may be serving an increased number of students with serious psychological difficulties (Locke, Bieschke, Castonguay, & Hayes, 2012), many are also limited in the number of counseling sessions they can provide (Ghetie, 2007). This makes it difficult for counselors to conduct a thorough assessment of relevant background issues such as previous victimization. This is problematic since many adolescents and college age students have experienced various types of victimization which may impact their current mental health (Hanson et al., 2008; Turner, Finkelhor, & Ormrod, 2006

Compared to other forms of victimization, the majority of published studies focus on the impact of sexual assault of children and adult women. Numerous empirical studies document sexual assault on college campuses as a significant national concern, with approximately one in five women and one in sixteen men sexually assaulted while in college (e.g., Cantor et al., 2015). Symptoms of psychological distress and trauma associated with sexual assault, as well as other forms of trauma, can be significant and are well documented (e.g., Briere & Scott, 2015). While some individuals develop diagnosable psychological disorders (e.g., PTSD, other anxiety disorders, depression, substance use, dissociative, or somatic disorders), others develop less severe trauma-related symptoms of psychological distress that are nonetheless problematic and worthy of treatment (such as those assessed on the SCL-90-R). For example, clients may experience somatic symptoms (e.g., headaches, nausea, muscle soreness), symptoms of hostility (e.g., easily annoyed or irritated, temper outbursts, frequent arguments), interpersonal sensitivity (e.g., self-consciousness, feelings easily hurt, feeling critical of others), depressive symptoms (e.g., low energy or restlessness, worthlessness, guilt, suicidal ideation or attempts), or symptoms of anxiety (e.g., excessive worry or fear, panic symptoms). Diagnosable psychological disorders and other subclinical symptoms of psychological distress may be particularly common in individuals who experienced both victimization in childhood as well as revictimization in college or adulthood. In the past 20 years, both counselors and researchers have recognized the need for greater understanding regarding the impact of a wide variety of other types of traumatic experiences on both males and females (Finkelhor, Hamby, Ormrod, & Turner, 2005a; Follette, Polusny, Bechtle, & Naugle, 1996; Higgins & McCabe, 2000; Saunders, 2003).

Significant gender differences emerged for the global measure of psychological distress and for all four measures of trauma symptoms. Although in all cases females in this non-clinical sample reported statistically greater symptomatology than did males, the size of the differences was so small as to be clinically meaningless. However, it is nonetheless noteworthy that over 10% of women and men reported clinically elevated levels of trauma-related distress, which include symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder and dissociation (e.g., trying not to think about something upsetting from your past, spacing out, getting upset when reminded of something from your past). Additionally, 8% of women and almost 6% of men reported clinically elevated levels of general psychological distress as measured by the GSI.
Keywords: Gender, psychological distress, trauma symptoms, college students
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