With women now serving on the front lines like never before in our nation's history, the military faces the new challenge of understanding the toll combat takes on the female psyche. Combat trauma is common in women; five out of ten women experience a traumatic event. Women tend to experience different traumas than men. While both men and women report the same symptoms of PTSD (hyperarousal, reexperiencing, avoidance, and numbing), some symptoms are more common for women or men.
What is the Difference?
Women are more likely to be jumpy, to have more trouble feeling emotions, and to avoid things that remind them of the trauma than men. Men are more likely to feel angry and to have trouble controlling their anger then women. Women with PTSD are more likely to feel depressed and anxious, while men with PTSD are more likely to have problems with alcohol or drugs. Both women and men who experience PTSD may develop physical health problems.
Why do Women Experience PTSD?
Women in the military are at high risk for exposure to traumatic events, especially during times of war. Although men are more likely to experience combat, a growing number of women are now being exposed to combat. Women in the military are at higher risk for exposure to sexual harassment or sexual assault than men. Future studies are needed to better understand the effects of women's exposure to both combat and sexual assault.
Do More Women than Men Experience PTSD?
Women are more than twice as likely to develop PTSD than men (10% for women and 4% for men). There are a few reasons women might get PTSD more than men:
Not all women who experience a traumatic event develop PTSD. Women are more likely to develop PTSD if they:
Women have a unique experience in the workplace, and particularly in military and police settings where they are a distinct minority. Many women experiencing an operational stress injury will be more comfortable participating in a small group if it is a same gender group. The women in this program will have a unique opportunity to share, learn and be understood by other women who likely have had similar experiences. This connection will be a powerful aspect of recovery and will reduce the social isolation of women suffering from an operational stress injury such as depression or PTSD. The support networks established may well last long after the program is over and may be a source of ongoing support and encouragement.
The program will be planned and conducted by female therapists, and will also have female guest speakers.