Gender-based perspective is not systematically included across trauma studies and deeper insight into women's response to trauma is required. We explored how the type of trauma (military vs. civilian) is related to clinical characteristics of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) female patients.
Out of 55 PTSD patients included in the study, 34 were military trauma victims (combat experience, witnessing family members being killed) and 21 experienced civilian trauma (rape, robbery, traffic accident). All patients were hospitalized at the Zagreb University Hospital. Data were gathered retrospectively from the medical charts.
Regardless to the type of trauma, examination of clinical characteristics indicate high rate of comorbid psychiatric disorders among PTSD patients with major depressive disorder being the most prominent one; others are personality disorder, anorexia nervosa and somatoform disorder. We found no significant inter-group differences in PTSD symptoms according to the DSM-IV criteria. Most pronounced PTSD symptoms in both groups were hyperarousal and social avoidance symptoms. Late first contact with psychiatrist was found to be a risk factor for PTSD diagnosis among the military group. Those patients were more likely to present first with somatic symptoms such as arterial hypertension, rheumatic pain and gastritis.
Study results suggest that both military and civilian traumas left polymorphous psychological consequences on the mental health of the victims. There is a need for sensitive and coordinated care for traumatized people in order to recognize psychological symptoms and provide optimal psychiatric interventions.