Women in Military More Likely to Suffer Mental Health Woes
While both men and women are vulnerable to mental health problems, there are some that women are more susceptible to than men. Women are more likely to experience depression, anxiety, domestic violence, mood disorders, and addiction. In particular, women in the military are susceptible to post-traumatic stress disorder and military sexual trauma. It is important to be able to recognize the signs of these disorders in yourself or in someone you love and to be able to get help. When mental illness goes unchecked and untreated, the consequences can be devastating for everyone.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
PTSD is caused by witnessing or experiencing some type of traumatic event. Naturally, it is common to experience trauma when serving in the military, but not everyone will get PTSD as a result. Experiences such as being fired at, seeing a friend get shot, or other similar life-threatening events during military service are not uncommon and can result in symptoms of PTSD.
Women are more likely than men to develop chronic PTSD, meaning a long-lasting form of the disorder. Those women who are particularly vulnerable to experiencing PTSD include those that have had a mental illness in the past, experienced sexual assault, were injured during the traumatic event, had other stressful events afterward, or those who lack a strong social support system.
Symptoms of PTSD which are more common in women than in men include jumpiness and anxiety, difficulty with emotions, and avoidance of any reminders of the trauma. The good news about PTSD is that it can be treated successfully. Medications, therapy, or a combination of both, when administered by a trained professional can help you or a loved one heal from this devastating disorder.
Military Sexual Trauma
One particular type of trauma to which women in the military are unfortunately susceptible is that of a sexual nature. While the role of women in service has changed greatly over the years, and largely for the better, they still face discrimination and even sexual harassment or assault. Military sexual trauma, or MST, is a recognized type of trauma that some women in service experience.
MST is any type of harassment or assault of a sexual nature that happens to someone in the military. This can include being put down for being female, unwelcome flirting or similar attention, sexual comments, pressure for sexual favors, or any kind of physical assault of a sexual nature. These instances may occur during deployment, during peace time, on a base, during training, or anywhere else related to military service.
It can be very difficult to speak up about this kind of sexual trauma because of feelings of shame and guilt and because of the fear of repercussions. However, not speaking out and not getting help can lead to worsening symptoms of mental illness and even physiological symptoms. It is crucial to talk to someone about these incidents and to get treatment.
All Veteran’s Administration hospitals have counselors on staff that are trained to work with people who have experienced MST. These experts can help someone heal from MST by discussing treatment options, conducting therapy sessions, and by recommending or prescribing medications.
There are many ways in which female veterans may experience mental health issues during and after service overseas or domestically. Some of these, like depression, anxiety, and mood disorders, are not uncommon in all women, incidents of PTSD and MST are higher in service women and require specialized treatment. If someone you know, or if you yourself, has experienced traumatic events while in service and experience mental health symptoms as a result, it is important to get help. There is no shame in admitting that you have had a bad experience and that you are struggling. The only way to get better is to get help.