Mental toll of war hitting female servicemembers

USA TODAY

Natara Garavoy, another psychologist here, says there can be added stress for those who are the only woman in a unit. “They don’t want to stand out,” she says, adding that some try to appear unattractive to ward off male soldiers who might not see another American woman for months.

Whatever their trauma, military women often hesitate to report problems. That’s partly because of the military’s ingrained emphasis on unit cohesion and the unspoken taboo against telling on a fellow soldier. It also stems from the fear of reinforcing stereotypes that theirs is the weaker sex.

“Women do have to prove themselves more,” says VA spokeswoman Kerri Childress, a Vietnam-era Navy veteran. “They have to work really, really hard to look tough.”

All that pressure must go somewhere, Resick says. Men with PTSD often are angry and act out aggressively. Women often turn inward and become depressed, she says. Both men and women “try not to deal with it” and often take years to seek counseling, Resick says.

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