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Psychological Health Concerns Related to Female Integration in the Military

service members saluting

Air Force Photo by Staff Sgt. Sara Keller

Making up 15 percent of the U.S. military, female service members have seen significant changes in the roles they play while serving. As of January 2016, all military jobs are now open to women. These include assignments aboard submarines, in the infantry and as front-line ground combat positions.

Combat stress and other psychological health concerns can affect all warriors. Female service members, though, may experience unique stressors such as feeling isolated or lacking female battle buddies when integrating into male-dominated fields. Over time, these stressors can lead to psychological health concerns, or make existing concerns worse. Reach out and seek care if needed.

Integration Challenges

Research has shown that integrating into male-dominated specialties may lead female warriors to feel isolated if they are the only female in a unit. This is important to know because symptoms of post-traumatic stress have been shown to be more common among female veterans who feel they have poor social support.

Also, female warriors may also feel the need to overcompensate to suppress negative stereotypes their male unit members may have. Examples could include ignoring injuries or going above and beyond to prove their strength. This could affect unit morale and mission readiness. They may also find it more challenging to access specialized health care when in certain roles, such as infantry.

Common Psychological Health Concerns Affecting Female Service Members

Deployment and combat exposure may increase the likelihood of service members developing psychological health concerns. While literature regarding female deployed service members, combat exposure and psychological health is limited, three common concerns and recent findings are highlighted below:

While the number of reported sexual assaults for women and men [PDF 2.92 MB] has decreased, sexual assault is still a major concern for service members, both male and female. A sexual assault can have lasting, harmful effects, physically and mentally. It may also contribute to developing the other three psychological health concerns listed above. If you experienced a sexual trauma, know that you are not alone. A health care provider can help guide you to get the proper treatment.

Seek Help

If you are feeling distress as the result of military service or other life stress, know that reaching out is a sign of strength. If you or a loved one needs additional support, you can contact the Psychological Health Resource Center to confidentially speak with a trained health resource consultant 24/7, call 866-966-1020 or use the Real Warriors Live Chat. You can also visit our “Seek Help, Find Care” page to see a list of key psychological health resources.

Additional Resources

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