Gender Differences in Veterans and How It Affects P.T.S.D.
The War At Home
22 A Day
Many of my friends have served in armed combat, either in Afghanistan or in Iraq. Because I've heard their stories, and because I work on the clerical side of the medical field, I felt compelled to write an article about veterans, gender differences, P.T.S.D., and the epidemic of suicide that is happening here in the Untied States.
The reality is that 22 U.S. veterans commit suicide every day, according to the Department of Veteran Affairs. This article was originally supposed to be only about female veterans and P.T.S.D. However, one of the darker truths that was revealed in the book Odysseus in America is that many male veterans do not like women. Yet, there are many women who, like them, are veterans of armed combat.
All veterans, male and female need to support each other and feel like they are being supported by civilians if we are going to combat the high suicide rate and problems with post traumatic stress and/or depression among veterans. The reality is that if veterans feel like, "No one cares about veterans," or if they are feeling that society as a whole is completely ignorant or indifferent to their suffering, then we as a society are failing them, both male and female veterans.
One recent victim of suicide was a female Air Force Reserve Captain named Jamie Brunette. She had served two years of active duty in Afghanistan. She described it as being very scary; she and her troops were under mortar attacks on a daily basis. They would have to run to the bunkers and accept death as just a normal thing. Her friends knew she was suffering from P.T.S.D. and was seeking treatment at the V.A. She committed suicide at the age of 31 by self-inflicted gun shot wound.
Statistics on Veteran Suicide
Female Veterans and P.T.S.D.
We have not really seen that many women entering armed combat as we are seeing in our modern times. So, the way in which these women experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is being studied. Dr. Sonja Batten, the V.A.'s Deputy Chief consultant for Specialty Mental Health said, "In the general population, women are twice as likely as men to develop post traumatic stress disorder. But, among recent returnees seeking care at the V.A., P.T.S.D. rates among men and women are the same. Statistics such as these suggest the need to better understand the role of gender in P.T.S.D., particularly as it may impact Veterans seeking care. A V.A. study was done that analyzed how men and women learn to be afraid. The work was done by Dr. Sabra Inslicht, a staff psychologist who works at the San Francisco V.A. Medical Center and as an assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco, and was published in the October 2012 issue of the Journal of Psychiatric Research. The research concluded that out of the male and female test subjects, the females learned to fear visual cues more quickly then the males did. However, considering all the people already had P.T.S.D., there is no conclusive answer as to whether or not women learn to fear something quicker than men do. "Fear Extinction" is used in the treatment of P.T.S.D. If someone watches a bomb go off in a big crowd they may be afraid of big crowds after that even when there are no bombs. Yet, if they are exposed to big crowds and continually see that nothing bad happens the fear starts to lessen and even go away with time.
Post Traumatic Stress in Women
Symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Arousal and Reactivity Symptoms
Flashbacks or reliving the trauma over and over including physical symptoms like a racing heart or swaety palms
staying away from places, events or objects that are reminders ot the traumatic experience
being easily startled
feeling a sense of being emotionally numb
feeling tense or on edge
strong guilt, depression, or worry
loss of interest in activiities that were once enjoyable
Clay Hunt Suicide Bill
Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention Bill
Clay Hunt was born in Texas the same as Chris Kyle and was a sniper. He loved being in the Marines and serving his country. Upon being shot in the wrist, he was honorably discharged. The pain that he felt from being separated from his unit was for him far more painful than being shot in the wrist. A friend of his said that you like to think you have some control over your unit and safety. When you are sent home you lose all sense of control. Clay was eventually diagnosed with P.T.S.D. He suffered from panic attacks, depression, and sleeplessness. Even though he was injured psychologically and physically he joined an elite sniper unit and was deployed a second time to Afghanistan. During his second deployment he started questioning if the United States was doing the right thing by being at war. When he got out of the Marines in 2009 and returned home, he felt very alienated by the rest of society. He told his mother, "You know the Marines are at war and America is at the mall." Still having problems with his involvement in war, he committed suicide on March 31st and died at 28. The Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention Bill was passed in February of 2015. It requires new peer support program, better transparency of existing VA mental health resources, and funding to repay student loans for mental health professionals willing to work for the V.A. It is a common joke that if you do not have P.T.S.D. by the time you enter the V.A., you will have it upon the time you leave. So, basically how do we fight this battle?
Gender Difference in P.T.S.D. Symptoms
Trouble with emotions
Trouble controlling anger
Avoiding things that remind them of a trauma
Trouble with alcohol and drugs
Depressed and anxious
Fighting the Second Battle
I am only a civilian. So, I can only give insight through observations from other people. When I was taking a Holocaust class in college the professor was a Vietnam veteran. He used to teach a class on escaping being taken prisoner in armed combat. He said the generation today is being called, the "I" generation meaning everyone is in it for himself. He had to tell the military personnel he was teaching "You are not John Wayne. You are going to need the help of each other." Comparing his military experience to the Holocaust, in the death camps the women died in greater numbers than men. However, in the work camps the women survived in greater numbers than men. The reason is they formed family units and looked after one another. They also talked about their problems. It helped them and kept them alive. This is what the Clay Hunt Bill intended; that is, it intends forming peer support groups to try to get these people who served our country to support each other when facing coming home from war. The link below gives a lot of information about trying to find a veteran peer support group which I think is a really good idea.
Peer Support Groups
- Peer Support Groups - PTSD: National Center for PTSD
Describes peer support groups and gives suggestions on how to locate a group to help those diagnosed with PTSD or caring for someone with PTSD.
Veteran's Crisis Line
One hears that one of the hardest things to deal with is the nightmares. Many veterans get a service dog to help with that. The dog wakes them up when they are experiencing these devastating nightmares. The nightmares interfere with the deep sleep that is needed for normal daytime functioning. Service dogs do other things as well. Dogs can be trained to sense when a panic attack is coming on. Dogs can be trained to calm and soothe the person who is experiencing a panic attack or other forms of anxiety. A weighted blanket is another means to help improve sleep and lessen anxiety. If you show the company "The Magic Blanket" proof that you served in the military, the company gives the veteran a 10 % discount. "Paws for Veterans" is just one company among many that trains dogs to help Veterans.
Coping with Nightmares
If you are a female veteran did you find this blog helpful?
If you are a male veteran did you find this blog to be helpful?
Let me know what you think.
Please comment below. Thank you.
Sources were viewed in March and April of 2016.
"V.A. Finds P.T.S.D. Affects Women Differently Then Men"
Report: "Female Veterans Six Times More Likely to Commit Suicide than Civilians," by Michael Lucchese
- Report: Female Veterans Six Times More Likely to Commit Suicide Than Civilians - Breitbart
New reports released by the federal government indicate the suicide rate for women veterans is six times higher than that of civilian women.
"P.T.S.D.'s effect on female veterans studied," by Drew Joseph
- PTSD's effect on female veterans studied - SFGate
Some studies have shown that women in general are more vulnerable to developing post-traumatic stress disorder than men, at up to twice the rates, and with thousands of women home after serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, researchers are in a good posit
"The Legacy of Clay Hunt: Marine recalled in new Suicide Legislation," by Dan Lamothe
- The legacy of Clay Hunt: Marine recalled in new suicide legislation - The Washington Post
The bipartisan Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for America Veterans Act calls for a variety of reforms to the Department of Veterans Affairs.