The military in the United States is changing and women can now participate in many areas of protecting their country than they ever could before. As long as they can pass the requirements for the position they want to be in, their gender is no longer an issue. Some women are even being allowed to participate in combat positions that they were previously banned from. Although these changes provide amazing opportunities for women who want to succeed in their military career, they also present unique challenges that must be addressed. One of the most concerning is the increased amount of female soldiers who are being diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
What is PTSD?
PTSD is a disorder that causes a person to have difficulty adjusting after they have gone through a traumatic event. PTSD presents symptoms of nightmares, anxiety, flashbacks, and emotional turmoil that can last for years if someone does not get the proper treatment they need. Women with PTSD tend to avoid anything that can trigger their symptoms, while men are more likely to become angry and hostile towards those things that they see as a threat. PTSD can be caused by any type of event that has a major impact on a person physically or emotionally. Some people develop it after being attacked, injured, shot at, or raped. Even witnessing an event this severe can cause the disorder to develop. The distance that someone was to the event determines how much it affects them. Those with the most severe symptoms were usually the closest in proximity to it.
How this disorder affects women differently
Men are more likely to experience certain types of trauma than women because they have more exposure to the more dangerous aspects of the military than women. However, because the military has catered to men for so long, women have higher rates of PTSD from the ongoing sexual harassment and abuse that is unfortunately, sometimes part of serving. Women are often forced to be alone with large groups of men without other women present. It puts them at a higher risk for feeling isolated and threatened. Even in areas where other women are with them, they still don’t feel safe. A common example for them is to have to carry a handgun or other type of weapon with them into the shower or dressing area to ensure that they won’t be raped or harassed by male soldiers.
Sorting out the statistics
Women are able to share their emotions more easily than men. This is mainly because of societal pressures for men to remain stoic no matter what they are going through. Women also tend to ask for help more often than men. These differences affect the statistics in regards to how often either sex is diagnosed. In general terms, there are a lot more case of men with PTSD, while women have a higher occurrence.
This disorder is highly treatable no matter how long someone has struggled with it or how severe their symptoms are. There are numerous medications and therapies that have been proven to successfully reduce the symptoms, but someone has to ask for help to be able to get it. Although women have the highest rates of PTSD, they also have the highest rates of recovery because they seek out the treatment that they need sooner than men.