Medical Minute 9-27: PTSD: The War Within Women

By: Vanessa Welch Email
By: Vanessa Welch Email

She's home from I, but for Army Sergeant Megan Krause the battlefield is still fresh on her mind.

"You're driving down the road something looks like trash and it turns out to be a bomb and it blows up one of your Humvees," said Sgt. Megan Krause, 450th Civil Affairs Battalion.

Megan served as a combat medic and struggles with the violence and trauma she experienced.

"Should I have been able to save them? Or should they have died and I saved them?"

Questions that haunted her once she came home.

"If I went into a restaurant with a group of people I always had to make sure I was sitting in the corner with my back against a wall so that no one could get behind me and typically so I could see the door."

She had post traumatic stress disorder. She turned to alcohol to cope.

"I ended up thinking somehow that there were terrorists chasing me."

In recent years, nearly 20-thousand female veterans were diagnosed with PTSD and other war-related mental disorders. Research shows women are four-times more likely than men to have long-lasting PTSD. In one study it took women five years to recover - compared to two years for men. Another study found women vets with PTSD were more likely to suffer from arthritis, lower back pain, obesity and hypertension than women without the disorder. Therapists say the key is to acknowledge the symptoms.

"Never forgetting what's happened to them but accepting what's happened feeling they've learned how to cope with the issue and be able to move on," said Sheila Jowsey, M.D., Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, Mayo Clinic.

Sergeant Krause is now a college grad - and helps other vets. She says a lot of counseling saved her.

"I would be a very different statistic than someone who's winning the battle with PTSD."

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BACKGROUND: Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a type of anxiety disorder that can occur after a person experiences a traumatic event that involves the threat of injury or death. PTSD can occur at any age and can happen after an individual experiences events such as an assault, domestic abuse, a prison stay, a rape, terrorism, or war. It can also follow a natural disaster such as a flood or a fire. The cause of PTSD is not known. Researchers believe there are psychological, genetic, physical and social factors that are involved. PTSD changes the body's response to stress. It affects the stress hormones and chemicals that carry information between the nerves (neurotransmitters). Researchers do not know why traumatic events cause PTSD in some people but not in others. Having a history of trauma may increase a person's risk for getting PTSD after a recent traumatic event. (SOURCE: NIH)

SYMPTOMS: Some symptoms of PTSD may include:
• Reliving the event: This may include flashback episodes, repeated upsetting memories; nightmares; or strong, uncomfortable reactions to situations that remind the person of the event.
• Avoidance: This may include emotional "numbing" or feeling as though you don't care about anything, feeling detached; or being unable to remember important details of the trauma.
• Arousal: This may include difficulty concentrating, being startled easily; having an exaggerated response to things that startle you; feeling irritable or having outbursts of anger, or having trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. (SOURCE: NIH)

WOMEN AND PTSD: About five out of 10 women experience a traumatic event. Women tend to experience different traumas than men. While both men and women report the same symptoms of PTSD, some symptoms are more common in women than in men. Women in the military are at high risk for exposure to traumatic events, especially during times of war. Women in the military are at a higher risk for exposure to sexual harassment or sexual assault than men.

For More Information, Contact:

National Center for PTSD,

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