By Alan Graham

The focus of returning vets focuses on mens issues as very little attention is given to the many thousands who are suffering in silence with PTSD at the same rates as men.

As the media pays more attention to the invisible scars soldiers can bring home from service, a common picture has emerged: that of the strong, battle-hardened young man who is susceptible to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

But there is another face of mental illness in the U.S. Armed Forces, and it’s a female one.

Certainly, far fewer women than men join the armed forces. And until very recently, women were formally banned from combat. But plenty of women veterans are dealing with the unexpected aftereffects of military service.

According to the National Center for PTSD at the United States Department of Veterans Affairs:

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can occur after someone goes through a traumatic event like combat, assault, or disaster. Most people have some stress reactions after a trauma. If the reactions don’t go away over time or disrupt your life, you may have PTSD.

A person with PTSD may go into a fight-or-flight reaction in response to seemingly harmless stimuli like the sound of a car starting or the sight of a door opening.

The number of women in the military has doubled in the past decade. According to the Pentagon, about 10 percent of the 2.2 million troops who served in Iraq and Afghanistan have been women.

These women are more likely to be in the line of fire than those serving in previous wars — and that means they’re also at a higher risk of having depression, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and other mental health problems. Researchers at the University of California San Francisco and the San Francisco VA Medical Center (SFVAMC) wanted to see if gender played a role in mental health outcomes after soldiers were exposed to combat-related trauma.

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