Women are more likely to develop posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) than men, and fluctuations in gonadal hormones might contribute to this vulnerability. Low-estradiol states are associated with aversive affective experiences, including trauma-related symptoms. However, the impact of trauma characteristics on the relation between estradiol and trauma-related symptoms is unknown. We used a clinical interview and 10-day ecological momentary assessment (EMA) that spanned low- and high-estradiol menstrual cycle phases to test trauma type, chronicity, and timing as moderators of the association between estradiol and trauma-related symptoms in 40 naturally cycling young women. We tested interactions between trauma characteristics and (a) estradiol on self-reported symptoms and (b) menstrual cycle-related change in estradiol on change in symptoms. Sexual, chronic, and earlier trauma was associated with more severe symptoms as reported during the interview, rs = .51-.33, but not mean symptoms across the EMA. Estradiol at the time of the interview was inversely associated with symptoms in women with sexual but not nonsexual trauma, interaction: B = -12.62 (SE = 5.28), p = .022. Menstrual cycle-related change in estradiol was inversely associated with change in symptoms in women with chronic trauma, B = -9.65 (SE = 3.49), p = .006, and earlier trauma, B = 0.71 (SE = 0.34), p = .036, but not discrete or later trauma. Sexual, chronic, or early trauma exposure might confer higher symptom vulnerability in low-estradiol states. Clinicians who work with women with particular trauma histories might anticipate menstrual cycle-related variation in symptoms.
Rieder, Jenna K; Kleshchova, Olena; and Weierich, Mariann R, "Trauma Characteristics Moderate the Relation Between Estradiol and Trauma-Related Symptoms" (2021). College of Humanities and Sciences Faculty Papers. Paper 16.