Traumatic Stress in Female Veterans
> 1/28/2006 10:57:31 AM

During and after the Vietnam War, mental-health professionals andbehavioral scientists began to notice adjustment problems in someveterans returning from Southeast Asia. At first, these problems werecharacterized as a "post-Vietnam syndrome." In 1980, this condition wasofficially recognized by the American Psychiatric Association asPosttraumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD.

The National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Study

TheNational Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Study (NVVRS) is the onlynational study of Vietnam veterans that included women. Of the 1,632Vietnam veterans in the study, 432 were women veterans who had servedin or around Vietnam sometime between 1964 and 1975. Most of thesewomen were registered nurses, and 90% had been commissioned officers.Over half had served more than 4 years in the military, and aboutone-fifth had served 20 years or more. At the time of the NationalVietnam Veterans Readjustment Study, about 45% of these women weremarried; less than half had children.


TheNational Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Study found that approximately27% of women Vietnam veterans suffered from PTSD sometime during theirpostwar lives. Over the last few years, researchers at the NationalCenter for PTSD have been looking further into the informationcollected in the NVVRS. One part of our research work has been todetermine how factors other than war-zone experiences might be relatedto the severity of PTSD.

We have found that high levelsof social support after the war played an important role for women.Those women who reported that they had friends and family available tothem were less likely to have symptoms of PTSD. In particular,emotional support-having someone to talk to and someone who reallycares-helped women to adjust more comfortably to postwar life. It wasalso important for the returning women veterans to feel that they couldrely on others to assist them with tasks in times of need. Veterans whohad this form of support also suffered less from PTSD.

Excerpt from The National Center for PTSD

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