Women Veterans React Differently to TBI

by Freddy Groves


Treatment of veterans with Traumatic Brain Injury has been difficult

because of the many symptoms that the illness presents. Now add another

barrier … there are differences in symptoms between men and women.

Women veterans with TBI suffer from chronic pain, joblessness, PTSD,

homelessness and depression in greater numbers than male veterans. They

are more likely to suffer from anxiety, neurological problems and sleep

disorders. Additionally, women veterans are more likely to suffer from

multiple symptoms. If PTSD is part of the package, women likely take

longer to heal.


Odette Harris, associate professor of neurosurgery at the Palo Alto

Veterans Affairs Health Care System) studied the effects of TBI on women

veterans. She began with the fact that women veterans are more likely to

be single parents and more likely to suffer from harassment and assault

related to gender, both of which add to stress of TBI.


Her research concluded that women veterans with TBI are:

–Four times more likely than male veterans to have substance-abuse


–Seven times more likely to be homeless, and 2.7 times more likely to be


–30 percent more likely to also have PTSD. (The good news here is that

women are more likely to ask for help and respond to treatment as well as

men, if not better.)


Harris produced video narratives of women veterans describing their

conditions in the hope that fresh approaches to treatment will come out of

the new paradigm: men and women who have TBI need different care because

they have different symptoms.


To learn more, visit the Veterans Resource Center on nami.com, the site

for the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Also see the VA’s TBI site

at www.polytrauma.va.gov. The www.ptsd.va.gov site has information for

veterans, and friends and family of veterans with PTSD.


Freddy Groves regrets that he cannot personally answer reader questions,

but will incorporate them into his column whenever possible. Send email to



(c) 2014 King Features Synd., Inc.

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