Understanding Moral Injury: What Servicewomen Need to Know


Military servicewomen are no strangers to challenges, both physical and emotional. While they display strength and resilience in the face of adversity, there’s a hidden battle that often goes unnoticed: moral injury. This unique psychological and spiritual burden can impact their well-being in profound ways. Today, we will delve into the concept of moral injury, explain how to identify it in oneself and loved ones, and shed light on its specific impact on servicewomen.

What is Moral Injury?

Moral injury is a complex emotional and psychological response to actions or events that transgress deeply-held moral beliefs and values. Unlike the more widely-known concept of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which stems from exposure to life-threatening events, moral injury is rooted in the internal conflict arising from a violation of one’s moral compass. It often occurs when an individual finds themselves in situations that challenge their sense of right and wrong, such as witnessing or participating in acts that conflict with their values.

Identifying Moral Injury in Yourself: Signs and Symptoms

Recognizing moral injury within oneself is crucial for seeking timely support and healing. Symptoms can vary widely and may include:

  1. Guilt and Shame: Feelings of overwhelming guilt and shame for actions taken or witnessed during military service.
  2. Loss of Meaning: A sense of purposelessness or questioning one’s values and beliefs due to the internal conflict caused by the experiences.
  3. Isolation and Withdrawal: Withdrawing from social interactions and isolating oneself due to the difficulty of sharing experiences with others who may not understand.
  4. Anger and Irritability: Outbursts of anger, irritability, or mood swings, often stemming from unresolved moral dilemmas.
  5. Spiritual Struggles: Questioning one’s faith or spirituality as a result of the perceived disconnect between their values and their actions.
  6. Depression and Anxiety: Developing symptoms of depression or anxiety due to the internal turmoil and unresolved emotional distress.


Recognizing Moral Injury in Loved Ones

Identifying moral injury in loved ones, particularly military servicewomen, requires sensitivity and understanding. Signs might include:

  1. Sudden Behavioral Changes: Noticeable shifts in behavior, demeanor, or interactions with family and friends.
  2. Avoidance of Certain Topics: Avoiding discussions related to their military experiences, especially those that involve moral dilemmas.
  3. Emotional Distance: Becoming emotionally distant or detached from others, including family and close friends.
  4. Expressing Guilt or Shame: Expressing feelings of guilt, shame, or regret related to their service experiences.
  5. Loss of Enjoyment: Losing interest in activities they once enjoyed and struggling to find joy or meaning in daily life.


The Impact on Servicewomen

Moral injury can have a profound impact on servicewomen, who often juggle demanding roles both on the battlefield and at home. The conflict between their duties, personal values, and societal expectations can lead to severe emotional distress. Left unaddressed, moral injury can contribute to mental health challenges, strained relationships, and hindered reintegration into civilian life.


Understanding moral injury is a crucial step toward addressing the emotional wounds that military servicewomen may carry. By recognizing the signs and seeking support, both servicewomen and their loved ones can pave the way for healing, resilience, and renewed purpose. It’s essential to foster a culture of open dialogue, empathy, and understanding to create an environment where moral injury can be acknowledged and healing can begin.

How to Get Help

We have a team of chaplains and counselors standing by provide help and support to women veterans who are struggling with moral injury. To reach one of our providers in the Harriet Tubman Network, call 910-701-0306, send an email to droberts@chaplainconsultants.com, or submit the Electronic Form.

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Robin Kassabian
Robin Kassabian
1 month ago

Thank you for this helpful information. I was not aware and appreciate this new awareness.

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