May 16, 2016, by Anum Yoon – The real cost of war is more than just the national debt. It’s also the hardships faced by men and women after leaving the service and returning to civilian life.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) undoubtedly ranks among the most debilitating hardships returning servicemen and women can face. It’s extremely widespread, with about one in three veterans reporting symptoms of PTSD.
What if we told you men and women experienced different types of PTSD? It’s true – and modern research is showing us why. Quite a few persistent myths surround PTSD – and equality between the genders is one of the most common.
Women and PTSD Risk Factors
Because of the renewed push to make women eligible for the same combat roles as men, we owe it to our female soldiers to understand just what they’re up against. The research so far is striking. It turns out that women are more than twice as likely to develop PTSD symptoms then men.
Just as important as the rates at which men and women experience PTSD are the ways in which this condition manifests. For instance, men with PTSD are more likely to abuse drugs or alcohol in order to cope with their emotional pain. Women, on the other hand, are less likely to feel emotions at all. Depression and anxiety are more common in women than in men.
Of course, there are different risk factors for the two sexes, as well. Women in the armed forces are more likely to become victims of harassment or even sexual assault, both of which are prime candidates for inducing PTSD. Compounding the problem further, women are more likely than men to blame themselves when such an event does occur.
How to Recognize PTSD Symptoms
Whether you’re a man or a woman, you’re not guaranteed to suffer from PTSD simply because you’ve had a stressful event. That’s why it’s essential to understand the outward signs of PTSD – not just for ourselves, but for our loved ones, as well.
You might have a case of PTSD on your hands if you’ve experienced or identified any of the following symptoms:
- Sudden or frequent mood swings – Those who suffer from PTSD often admit to a difficulty feeling emotions, or not feeling them as strongly as before. Anger, loneliness, disinterest and general nervousness can all indicate PTSD.
- Sudden changes in behavior – Self-destructive or outwardly hostile behavior, where none existed before, can also shed light on a potential PTSD diagnosis.
- Difficulty sleeping – People who suffer from PTSD are likely to experience chronic sleep problems, such as difficulty staying asleep, nightmares and night terrors or even severe insomnia.
- Substance abuse – PTSD sufferers are more likely than the general population to resort to drugs and alcohol, and men are more likely than women to do the same.
If you or someone you know is exhibiting any of the above symptoms, it’s time to get the psychological, and perhaps even pharmacological, help you need to move towards recovery.
The Good News
The good news about all this: A PTSD diagnosis is far from certain, even if you meet some of the above criteria, and even if you’ve experienced a traumatic event.
Existing mental health problems can cause a predisposition for Post-Traumatic Stress, as can a past sexual assault or even a no-fault injury. The quality of our social safety nets can also play a role, and includes family, friends and even government support institutions. If those suffering from PTSD do not have anywhere to turn, their symptoms will only worsen.
The ultimate message here is that mental health issues often don’t get the attention they’re due in this country. Until we recognize that we need to treat the whole body – including the mind – a full reckoning with PTSD and its symptoms will remain a pipe dream.