A Woman Guard Member's Struggle with PTSD

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Wisconsin guardswoman Abbie Pickett

After returning from Iraq, 22-year-old Wisconsin guardswoman Abbie Pickett planned to become a physician's assistant, but PTSD has complicated her plans. Joseph Shapiro, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Joseph Shapiro, NPR

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When scientists study the psychiatric injuries of war, they usually study it in men. But now more women are coming back from Iraq with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. Abbie Pickett of the Wisconsin National Guard faces a continuing struggle to get her life back on track.

Facts about PTSD

Most people who are exposed to a traumatic, stressful event experience some symptoms of PTSD in the days and weeks following exposure. Data suggest about 8 percent of men and 20 percent of women go on to develop PTSD. Roughly 30 percent of these people develop a chronic form that persists throughout their lives.

An estimated 7.8 percent of Americans will experience PTSD at some point in their lives. Women are twice as likely as men to develop PTSD. For men, the traumatic events most often associated with PTSD are rape, combat exposure, childhood neglect and childhood physical abuse. In women, the most frequently associated traumas are rape, sexual molestation, physical attack, being threatened with a weapon and childhood physical abuse.

Much of what we know about women and PTSD has come from scientists funded by the Department of Veterans Affairs. They've found that women who join the military are more likely — when compared to women in the civilian world — to have been sexually abused as children. In the service, they may deal with sexual violence again: 71 percent of women who ask for VA disability benefits for PTSD say they've been sexually assaulted while in the military.

About 30 percent of men and women who've spent time in war zones experience PTSD. An additional 20 to 25 percent have had partial PTSD at some point in their lives.

Source: National Center for PTSD

Credit: NPR Science Desk senior producer Rebecca Davis produced this piece.

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