Types of Trauma
The Trauma Core of Women's Health Research at Yale studies issues unique to female veterans, women, and children. Please browse the tabs below for information and resources.
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
PTSD can develop as a result of a terribly frightening, life-threatening, or otherwise highly unsafe experience. Sufferers can “re-experience” the event or events, tend to avoid places, people, or other things that remind them of the event (avoidance), and can be exquisitely sensitive to normal life experiences (hyperarousal). PTSD has only been recognized as a formal clinical syndrome since 1980. Not every person exposed to stressful events will develop PTSD. Some people have a short period of 4-6 weeks during which they feel some of the symptoms of PTSD, but which then subside on their own. However, PTSD in combat veterans may take time to emerge. It is not unusual for several months to pass before symptoms become apparent.
Links and Resources
Issues Unique to Veterans
- The kinds of traumatic events experienced by military veterans can be different from civilians. These include regular exposure to weapons fire and explosives (such as land mines, IEDs, or bombs), witnessing or participating in the occurrence of civilian or military casualties, and physical or sexual harassment and/or assault by a fellow soldier(s).
- These events may be unique kinds of stressful experiences and so they may be more difficult for friends and family to understand.
- The higher the ‘dose’ of stressful events, the higher the likelihood of developing PTSD. Female veterans who are exposed to combat conditions and also experience Military Sexual Trauma may be at particularly high risk for PTSD and other negative mental health consequences.
- It is particularly important for veterans’ families to be involved in treatment, in part because it is sometimes difficult for families to understand the nature of the traumatic events. In addition, family counseling may help to prevent interpersonal violence that can sometimes result from the intense emotional symptoms of PTSD.
Links and Resources
If you’re a veteran suffering from PTSD or trauma, you can turn to your local VA hospital or Vet Center for help. Vet Centers offer free counseling to combat veterans and their families. There are more than 160 specialized PTSD treatment programs across the country in VA facilities, covering a wide variety of treatment options, and many more individual VA clinicians with expertise in treating PTSD. To find out more about the resources and benefits available to you, call the VA Health Benefits Service Center at 1-877-222-VETS.
Issues Unique (Or More Prevalent) in Women
- Women are slightly less likely to experience a traumatic event in their lives than men. However, given such an event, they are more than twice as likely to develop PTSD compared to men, and 10% of American women suffer the symptoms of PTSD during their lifetime.
- Women are more likely to suffer sexual abuse in their lifetimes than men, either from within the family (e.g. incest, domestic violence), within social circles (e.g. date rape), or by strangers (e.g. sexual assault). It is well known that such events are under-reported and the resulting physical and mental health consequences are under-treated.
- Women with trauma histories are vulnerable to a wide variety of other problems, including chronic pain, sleep disorders, eating disorders, self-destructive behavior, depression, and substance abuse in addition to PTSD. Many physicians presented with such complaints may view them as the primary problem, and not realize that they are tied to trauma histories.
- Social support is particularly important for the prevention of PTSD in women following a traumatic event(s).
- Women and men experience PTSD differently. Women are more likely than men to have repeated painful memories of the event, experience emotional numbing and a limit in the range of expressed emotions, and be easily startled. Men are more likely than women to experience impulsivity and irritability. Women also appear to recover from PTSD more slowly than men, and are four times more likely to develop chronic symptoms.
Links and Resources
Issues Unique to Children
- Children can experience many of the same traumatic experiences that adults do. One area that may be somewhat unique to children is that they may experience medical procedures as traumatic, where adults may be less likely to do so. Natural disasters, depending upon their direct effects on the family home and health, may be more traumatic for children than adults.
- Reactions to traumatic events in children can differ from adults. For example, they are more likely to exhibit behavior problems such as defiance, aggression, and regression, as well as withdrawal and decreases in attention or concentration that can affect school work. “Acting out,” by engaging in drug and alcohol use or sexually inappropriate behavior, may occur in older children.
- Children may have difficulty describing traumatic events (e.g. assault) and may have difficulty describing their emotional reactions, or associating symptoms with the stressful event. Therefore, assessment and diagnosis can be more challenging in children than in adults.
- Parental responses to a traumatic event are among the strongest protective factors against the development of PTSD in children. Parental support and lower levels of parental distress are associated with less severe symptoms and lower risk of developing PTSD.