If you’ve defended our country during a conflict, you may have experienced violent and traumatic events. This experience put you at risk for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a severe anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to such events. PTSD in military service members is not uncommon, but this condition is treatable.
U.S. Military PTSD Statistics
Reports of combat-related PTSD are common. According to the National Center for PTSD (2008):
- About 30 percent of Vietnam veterans had PTSD.
- Between 6 and 11 percent of veterans of the conflict in Afghanistan are estimated to have PTSD.
- Up to 20 percent of veterans of the war in Iraq may have PTSD.
Understanding PTSD Symptoms for Veterans
In veterans, PTSD symptoms may include:
- Anger and irritability
- Avoiding activities, places and thoughts associated with the trauma
- Feeling constantly “on alert”
- Feelings of intense distress when thinking of the trauma
- Guilt, self-blame and shame
- Inability to recall some aspects of traumatic event.
Other symptoms of PTSD in soldiers or veterans include:
- Jumpiness or being easily startled
- Loss of interest in activities and life itself
- Pain, including chest pain, headaches or stomachaches
- Perception of a shortened lifespan and limited future
- Physical reactions such as pounding heart, nausea or sweating when reminded of the traumatic event
- Substance abuse
- Suicidal thoughts
- Trouble concentrating
- Trouble falling and staying asleep.
Many people who have been in combat experience post-traumatic symptoms; this is normal. For many people, symptoms begin to go away on their own after several days or weeks. If your symptoms don’t improve over time, or they get worse, you may have PTSD. In some cases, PTSD may not appear immediately after a trauma. PTSD in soldiers sometimes develops weeks, months or years after a traumatic event.
Treating PTSD in Soldiers
If you suspect you have PTSD, your doctor can help. Many PTSD therapies can help you feel at peace with yourself and the world again. Here are some PTSD therapies that may work for you:
- Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR): This therapy combines elements of cognitive-behavioral therapy with eye movements and other stimulation such as hand taps and sounds.
- Family therapy: This therapy helps the whole family communicate and work together toward recovery.
- Medication: Doctor-prescribed antidepressants may relieve PTSD depression and anxiety; other medication may be prescribed to lessen other symptoms.
- Trauma-focused cognitive-behavioral therapy: This therapy involves careful, gradual exposure to thoughts, feelings and situations related to the trauma, as well as identifying upsetting thoughts and replacing them with more balanced ones.
HelpGuide. (2010). Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Retrieved June 24, 2010, from: http://helpguide.org/mental/post_traumatic_stress_disorder_symptoms_treatment.htm.
National Center for PTSD. (2008). How common is PTSD? Retrieved July 1, 2010 from: http://ncptsd.va.gov/ncmain/ncdocs/fact_shts/fs_how_common_is_ptsd.html.
Veterans of Foreign Wars Magazine. (2009). PTSD rates rising. Retrieved June 24, 2010, from: http://www.military.com/news/article/ptsd-rates-rising.html.