Does PTSD Affect Male and Female Soldiers the Same Way? - The Ranch

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Does PTSD Affect Male and Female Soldiers the Same Way?

June 23, 2017 Articles
ptsd female and male solider

PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder, is a serious mental health condition that can manifest in anyone who experiences a traumatic or life-threatening event or situation. For several reasons, this condition has strong associations with service in the military. With this in mind, you may wonder if post-traumatic stress disorder affects male and female soldiers in the same manner. The answer to this question is somewhat complicated. While men and women tend to experience the same general PTSD symptoms, women experience some specific symptoms more often than men.

 PTSD in the Military

Men and women in the military have one fairly unique risk for PTSD: exposure to active combat situations. In past decades, female soldiers weren’t often exposed to such situations. However, times have changed, and women now fill active or supporting combat roles with some regularity. Compared to their male counterparts, women in the military have a much higher rate of exposure to another risk factor for PTSD: sexual assault. In addition, they share certain sources of stress with men, including worries over family matters and loneliness produced by separation from loved ones or redeployment to unfamiliar units.

Symptoms in Women vs. Symptoms in Men

All people with PTSD develop symptoms that fall into four broad categories:

  • Re-experiencing of the source of trauma
  • Avoidance of trauma reminders
  • Symptoms of hyperarousal or an excessive tendency to react nervously, anxiously or aggressively to everyday situations, and
  • Negative changes in normal mood or thought capacity

To receive an official diagnosis of the disorder, both men and women must experience at least one symptom from each of these categories. However, the National Center for PTSD notes that women typically experience some specific problems more often than men. Examples of these problems include:

  • A jumpy or jittery state of mind
  • Avoidance of trauma reminders
  • Problems accessing emotions, and
  • Bouts of anxiety or depression

On the other hand, when symptoms appear, women have a greater likelihood of seeking help than men. Women may also respond to treatment better than men in some cases.

Unanswered Questions

Researchers are still gathering important data on the effects of serious trauma on female soldiers. Specifically, they need more information on how combat-related trauma can interact with trauma caused by sexual assault or sexual harassment. This means that no one currently has the full picture on how women in the military develop or experience PTSD.

Resources

National Institute of Mental Health: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd/index.shtml

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs – National Center for PTSD: Traumatic Stress in Women Veterans                                                                                                 http://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/PTSD-overview/women/traumatic-stress-female-vets.asp

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs – National Center for PTSD: Women, Trauma and PTSD http://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/PTSD-overview/women/women-trauma-and-ptsd.asp

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