By Vicky M Krause
In our work at Veterans National Recovery Center, we have interviewed a number of female veterans who have reported sexual assault and harassment while in the military. It has resulted in PTSD, anxiety, and depression. The question is How do you think gender may play a role in the experience of PTSD and anxiety?
Gender can play a significant role in the experience of PTSD and anxiety among veterans. Research suggests that there are differences in the types of trauma experienced by male and female veterans, which can lead to differences in the presentation and course of PTSD and anxiety symptoms.
One study found that male veterans were more likely to experience combat-related traumas, while female veterans were more likely to report sexual assault, harassment, and discrimination as their primary traumas (Street et al., 2009). This suggests that female veterans may be more likely to experience interpersonal trauma, which can have a different impact on mental health compared to combat-related trauma.
Another study found that male veterans with PTSD were more likely to report symptoms related to aggression, substance use, and sleep disturbance, while female veterans with PTSD were more likely to report symptoms related to depression and anxiety (Friedman et al., 2002). These findings suggest that there may be gender differences in the way PTSD symptoms manifest.
In addition to differences in the types of traumas experienced, gender norms and societal expectations may also influence the experience of PTSD and anxiety among veterans. For example, male veterans may be socialized to believe that seeking help for mental health issues is a sign of weakness, which can lead to underreporting of symptoms and a delay in seeking treatment. On the other hand, female veterans may be more likely to seek help for mental health issues but may face barriers to accessing care due to gender-based discrimination and stigma.
Overall, it is important to recognize the ways in which gender may influence the experience of PTSD and anxiety among veterans. By understanding these differences, mental health professionals can provide more tailored and effective treatments for male and female veterans alike.