Will PTSD Diagnosis Rates Increase as Women Take Position on the Front Line?

In another win for women’s rights, the Department of Defense has finally allowed women to serve in combat. While those who wanted the same rights and access as men are rejoicing, there are others who worry what this change really means. Mental illness proponents fear that this change could propel the instances of PTSD.

A Huffington Post report highlights the PTSD epidemic, a condition affecting servicemen and women from all walks of life. According to the Department of Defense, roughly 20 percent of female veterans have been diagnosed, compared with 14 to 18 percent of males.

As more women join the front lines in battle, the rate is projected to increase. But instances of PTSD are not the only concerns among female combatants. Women are at a much greater risk for Military Sexual Violence or Military Sexual Trauma, as it’s also called. Such experiences are closely linked to PTSD.

Consider the instances that took place among Korean War veterans between October 2010 and September 2011. More than 50 sexual assaults per day were reported with women the most common victims by far. Of the active service women today, one-third report they have experienced some form of Military Sexual Trauma.

The effects of PTSD among women are also very different as compared with men. Women tend to develop depression and anxiety more readily than men. By contrast, men are more likely to develop violent tendencies and abuse substances. The different reactions have been tied to the biological differences between the brains of men and women.

The positive side of the gender differences when it comes to PTSD is that women are more likely than men to seek treatment. As women take their positions on the front line, however, this is one situation that will need to be closely watched.