Women in the military can experience many hardships throughout their time serving. While their work may be incredibly rewarding, some of the trauma that is experienced is carried with them long after their service is done. While there is no way to fully dispel these memories, there are many techniques that can be implemented to overcome them.
What Is PTSD?
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a disorder that occurs when an individual experiences an event that is shocking, dangerous, and/or raises high emotions. In these moments, people’s fight-or-flight response is overactivated. These memories create a neural pathway, warning them of the potential situation occurring in the future.
These warning signals can occur, even in safe settings, when the memory is triggered by something in an individual’s surrounding environment. Flashbacks to the traumatic event and feelings from that moment may arise and lead them into a state of shock. Because these “warning signals” are often not accurate, they create high levels of fear in everyday situations.
Signs and Symptoms
The signs and symptoms of PTSD often vary between individuals, as the experiences that inflicted this disorder can differ. Reviewing the most common signs, you can create an awareness and understanding of the effects of PTSD and reach out for help if you find you are encountering these symptoms. Symptoms can include:
- Flashbacks or feelings of reliving the event
- Negative thought patterns
- Feeling nervous or tense
- Increased heart rate
- Excessive sweating
- Lack of interest
- Feelings of numbness
- Difficulty sleeping
- Lack of concentration
Factors of PTSD for Military Women
As women in the military are likely to experience a sequence of traumatic events, some events may stick with you for longer and affect your emotions on a deeper level. Being aware of the potential risk factors for PTSD can help you avoid these situations in the future or cope with the situation in the moment.
Be aware of your vulnerabilities. If you have other psychological disorders, the potential for developing PTSD when a traumatic event occurs is increased. Having a severe reaction at the moment of the event can reinforce the emotions connected to the experience. Regulating your emotions in a moment of crisis can help mitigate this potential.
Women are also more likely to experience some form of sexual assault or abuse during this time, often leading to PTSD. When in the military, some situations are unavoidable. If you or a member of your team gets severely injured, there are often high levels of emotions, making way for these neural warning pathways to begin. It is important to understand that not all situations that initiate PTSD are avoidable, especially in military service.
There are many techniques that you can apply to overcome the effects of PTSD. Similar to any other psychological disorder, overcoming PTSD takes a great deal of patience.
Mindfulness is a grounding technique that can be used at nearly any time or place. Mindfulness takes practice to achieve and understand. It may take some time to feel comfortable relying on this technique, especially in social situations, but with practice, it can become incredibly useful. When you notice the symptoms of PTSD setting in, you can reach a state of mindfulness and calm your senses immediately.
Accept the Past
Many individuals with PTSD develop a strong feeling of regret, as they feel that they could have done something in the situation to stop the traumatic event from happening. It is important to accept the past as it is, as there is nothing that can be done to change the past now. Discussing these memories with a professional can allow you to talk through them, explain your viewpoints, and increase your acceptance of the past situation.
This will not necessarily make the symptoms of PTSD go away, but it can be used to help regulate the emotions that arise with the disorder. If you are struggling with a military event that left you feeling unsafe, work to ground your emotions and see that you are not in the same situation as you were at the time. Accepting the past for what it is and differentiating it from the present can help you separate yourself from these feelings of danger.
Ask for Support
Women often have a hard time coping after leaving the military. As there are many societal stereotypes towards women in the military that can leave them feeling mistreated or unrecognized for their service. Having a support system when you get home can help you avoid feeling this way and gives you a healthy environment to work on your coping skills. Asking for support from your surrounding loved ones can help you feel safe, communicate the symptoms that do arise, and handle the emotions from their root cause.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a common psychological disorder that develops in those who serve in the military. This disorder occurs from experiencing traumatic events and developing symptoms of feeling they are reliving the trauma. While men often deal with PTDS as well, women are highly likely to develop PTSD when serving in the military. Being aware of the potential situations in which traumatic events can occur and developing the ability to recognize the signs and symptoms of PTSD can allow you to reach out for help immediately. Gaining emotional regulation skills is highly important with this disorder, as the memories of traumatic events often cause high emotions. There are many techniques you can implement to help overcome these side effects and keep yourself grounded. To learn more about overcoming military-related PTSD as a woman, reach out to Spero Recovery today at (303) 351-7888.