Gender Differences Within Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Due to Military Sexual Trauma




Matlock, Alyse Nichole

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BACKGROUND: Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a trauma- and stressor-related disorder which may develop after an individual has been exposed to a traumatic event. One cause of PTSD is military sexual trauma (MST), which refers to sexual assault or harassment that a veteran experienced during his or her military service. Evidence suggests that gender may play a role in the symptomatologic expression of PTSD, with men being more likely to evidence externalizing behaviors of posttraumatic distress (e.g., substance use and state-anger) and women more likely to display internalizing symptoms (e.g., feelings of emotional numbing, withdrawal, and depression). The goal of the current study is to understand if discernable differences between men and women regarding expression of PTSD symptomatology exist, which may affect traditional treatments for MST-related PTSD. SUBJECTS: 129 participants (114 female and 15 male) were enrolled in the larger study, a randomized controlled trial (RCT) comparing two treatments for PTSD. The current study utilized data from 15 men and 15 women matched on age, military branch, and number of tours from the larger RCT. METHOD: This study utilized data from the initial RCT with all data collection and analyses taking place at the Dallas VAMC. Participants were given questionnaires to assess demographic variables (Demographic Questionnaire), PTSD symptom severity (Clinician Administered PTSD Scale; CAPS), depression (Quick Inventory of Depressive Symptomatology; QIDS), previous and current substance use (Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV Axis I Disorder; SCID-I), and state-anger (State-Trait Anger Expression Inventory-2; STAXI-2). It was hypothesized that females with MST-related PTSD would report more internalizing symptoms of PTSD (e.g., depression, emotional numbing, and withdrawal) compared to males with MST-related PTSD. Conversely, it was hypothesized that males with MST-related PTSD would report greater externalizing symptoms of PTSD (e.g., substance use and state-anger) than females with MST-related PTSD. RESULTS: No significant differences were found for either hypotheses. DISCUSSION: Despite no significant gender differences regarding posttraumatic distress between males and females found, the results are important because they suggest that other factors, such as trauma type, may be more influential in shaping posttraumatic symptom expression as opposed to gender.

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